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Released: 2015, Independent
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Vanhelga, despite forming in 2001, it took them 8 years to reach their first release, a demo titled Enslaved by God. Since then the band have produced a tirade of releases, totally 3 full lengths and 5 EPs in just 6 years. 2015 is no exception as J. Ottosson returns with 29 minutes of insanity in the form of HAPPINESS.
Black metal has moved a long way from the basement days, where recordings were marred by spare equipment and even sparser knowledge on techniques. Vanhelga seem to have taken inspiration from these primitive recording tactics as scratchy riffs and blasting drums compete for space in the overcrowded space beneath the weight of the distorted guitars and drums while spoken words echo over the dirge. While over half of the tracks could fall under the ever-widening black metal label, as the record progresses, the style becomes more eclectic. ‘Loneliness’ and ‘Emptiness’ scale it back with long piano solos, standing in direct opposition to the albums name as they weave their melancholy melodies. The surprise really comes to the end with ‘Mjau,’ (meaning meow) as the album kicks up the tempo as it closes on a dance track.
HAPPINESS may be anything but its name, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an oddly compelling album. There are few records that are truly surprising made, and HAPPINESS is not only an album that is unexpectedly strange, but continues to surprise even with that knowledge. Whether you tune into this album as a serious listener or for the entertainment value, the release has a lot to offer. Who said black metal couldn’t have fun?
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