Before my discovery of alcohol, cigarettes and coffee, there was a drink that my young friends and I had to try after reading the label. This jet cola fuel in a can’s claim to fame was “All the sugar and twice the caffeine.” All of you young enough to remember discovering this drink in the 1980’s know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, I’m talking about Jolt Cola. We stocked up on Jolt because this was the stuff that was going to aid us in staying awake for 24 plus hours. The funny thing that ties this childhood memory to listening to Vanhelga‘s “Längtan,” however, is the comparison between vocalist, J. Gabrielson and one of my childhood friends that wasn’t used to consuming large amounts of caffeine. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing a real life Beavis from the cartoon “Beavis and Butthead,” as his alter ego “Cornholio,” all sugared up and hyped out.
Formed in 2001 and hailing from Sweden, this 5 piece band started releasing their unique brand of black metal for the public in 2009. Now I admit when I first listened to “Längtan,” I didn’t think the album was unique. I thought it was down right annoying, thanks to the vocals of J. Gabrielson. On every song, he makes every noise you can imagine. About the only thing missing is yodeling. Maniacal laughter, screeching, giggling, chanting, and howling are just some of things coming out of Gabrielson‘s throat. The lyrics are all in Swedish, so one day I’m going to have to translate them to English to get a better understanding of the method to his madness. I’ve listened to this album multiple times now, and with the lack of interpretation I’m still not sure if I should take his vocals seriously, get annoyed, or laugh hysterically at the crazy noises filtering through my ears.
All vocal craziness aside, “Längtan” is graced with beautiful guitar work by band members J. Ejnarsson, D. Wadström, and main man 145188. Yes that is his “name.” The first track,’Svartsint ömhet,’ starts with graceful acoustics with mid tempo drums and cymbal crashes from drummer D. Franzén in the background, and then finishes with a impressive solo. ‘Där evigheten inväntar mig’ incorporates the piano into the mix, which works in harmony with the acoustic guitar. The combination of the guitar and drum pacing on ‘Kärleksförklaring’ is the closest I think I’ve been to being hypnotized. There are tracks that put a chill down my spine, too. Toward the end of ‘Vansinnesvardag’ you can hear a baby wailing, which definitely creeped me out. With most of the tracks on this album there is a feeling of distress and gloominess. ‘Förbarma’ and ‘Eternal Night’ are prime examples of Vanhelga‘s despair. ‘Exploderande känslostorm’ is the last song, and it is over nine minutes long with an intermission of birds chirping, and finishes up with what I can only describe as country music-like banjo guitar picking.
So in closing, if you like your black metal dominated by bleakness and stunning acoustic guitars, “Längtan” is an album you’ll want to check out. But heed my warning, the vocals might throw you down a rabbit hole of madness from which you might never escape.