Alfahanne are an anomaly. When the Swedes offered up their debut “Alfapokalyps” in 2014 interest was piqued due to the members being ex members of well respected black metal bands and the plethora of cult figures they brought in as guests. Niklas Kvarforth of Shining and Hoest from Taake to name but two.
Despite the personnel there was nothing predictable about the brilliant melting pot of music they poured into the ears of listeners. Goth, punk, rawk and roll and of course black metal all vied for centre stage. Blod Eld Alfa and Det Nya Svarta which were released in 2015 and 2017 respectively showed that this was no flash in the charred pan and “Atomvinter” is no different.
Alfahanne effortlessly (or so they make it seem) meld the aforementioned genres into something that is so foot tappingly, headbangingly, armwavingly anthemic that the listener feels that they are being carried along on an ink black wave towards some gloriously decadent party in a torchlit cavern somewhere.
For an album whose title translates to Nuclear winter and purports to be part of a manifesto to “spread a black smog over the world” it has put me in a great mood. I have read reviews of Alfahanne’s previous releases on this great site and agreed wholeheartedly with the high scores given by Gizmo and Pete. One thing I have noticed about this band is that they seem to evoke a passion in the listener whilst inviting comparison or influence from a myriad of acts each one different for each listener and pricking at the heart strings . For these lugholes there is early Christian Death, Slegest, bit of Blackgaze (I’m such a hipster) , Tau Cross, Kvelertak , some Sisters of Mercy and on the wonderful “The Heavy Burden”; a mix of symphonic metal and Scandipunk. Such a wonderful mix of dark yet uplifting music as the dying refrain of “The Heavy Burden” of” a demon inside my head” this album is a pretty accurate dissection of where we seem to be in late 2019 – a maelstrom of bipartisan misery with glorious spikes of optimism keeping hope alive.
The band have been kind enough to write a few English language songs on Atomvinter, which makes singling along a bit easier. I do try in other tongues but I am always worried I am roaring nonsense in the shower or at gigs. To tell you the truth, it matters not what language these guys sing in each of the 9 tracks transcends linguistic barriers.
Opening with the title track Alfahanne erupt into a pounding postpunk rocker with a soaring guitar line that erupts from a fist pumping vocal. This is a post apocalyptic belter that builds and builds to a killer climax. Phew. Thus the piano and drums intro to Lovers Against the World provide a completely different texture. This is a melancholy track crawling from the fallout with modern BM guitars and achingly beautiful keys driven by a rock beat that pounds like a grebo’s heart after a ton of whizz. Alla Mot Alla begins like a clap along Queen affair before descending into doom death with some claw making moments and even a Tom G ooh! The mix of clean punky vocals and death growls, straight rock drumming and razorwire black metal guitars is just wonderful. It’s like Alfahanne have grabbed all the music playing in my head and turned it into some dark delicious gumbo.
A Place to call Home is Paradise Lost fighting with Kvelertak and Amebix. I have not yet seen Midsommar but I can see this playing whilst ashes of human remains are being swept up by gleeful cultists. (that’s a compliment by the way). Sluten Circle is true dark rock and roll, the kind of stuff fans of Volbeat think they are listening to. Fist pumping, anthemic music for nefarious night times. Fonzig would approve!
Sakna Mig Som Om Jag Vore Dod is not just a mouthful (it translates to Miss me as if I were dead) it’s the sound of a punk sailing a Viking ship on fire across an urban river. The beat is that of a galley slave master forcing his crew to pick up the pace. Just a relentless, unfaltering beast of a track.
I waxed lyrical about The Heavy Burden many paragraphs above and it deserves a second bite at the cherry. A bloody epic belter that brings to mind both As Friends Rust and Enslaved. Yeah I know WTF! It’s fantastic! A hit repeat track for this feller. Could this be the new crossover? Emotive hardcore and Viking metal? I’m in! Himlen Kan Vanta follows in a similar vein which means I don’t have to keep skipping back to get a similar vibe. This is a real heart on the sleeve, passionate track with elements of post hardcore, dripping emotion.
I did not know how Alfahanne could finish Atomvinter. It is a rollercoaster of an album that left me feeling a little wrung out. En Tight Knut begins like a Vangelis soundtrack before building into an epic heartrending swansong.
Alfahanne have produced a bloody belter of an album which blends raw emotion, subtle atmospheres and gargantuan riffs and hooks into one of the great dark rock releases of the year.
(8.5/10 Matt Mason)