Album Review: Hjelvik – Welcome To Hel

Album Review: Hjelvik - Welcome To Hel

Album Review: Hjelvik - Welcome To Hel
Reviewed by Jon Wigg

Former Kvertelak frontman Erlend Hjelvik, brings his harsh vocals and thunderous riffs to this new album ‘Welcome to Hel’. Describing it as blackened Viking heavy metal, Hjelvik’s debut is a departure from his former band and mixes genres well. Joining Hjelvik are Rob Steinway on guitar, Alexis Lieu on bass and Kevin Foley on drums.

The different sounds work well and this is an excellent debut. Hjelvik takes the sense of fun that ran through Kvertelak’s sound, adds in more menace and traditional heavy metal notes and the shakedown is a set of 10 songs that get the blood pumping. Songs like opener ‘Father War’ and ‘North Tsar’ have a real black metal feel without the normal blistering pace. The infusion of classic metal and the occasional blast beat drumming works well in these tracks and is a tool used sparingly across the entire piece.


The album as a whole is fairly mid-paced, using killer riffs and excellent solos to complement Hjelvik’s fantastic screams to provide the heaviness and memorable moments, rather than relying on speed. The atmosphere feels like a celebration of traditional heavy metal - Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Danzig all present to my ears - created by someone who also loves Immortal.

‘Thor’s Hammer’ is evidence of this and also injects a little folk metal harmonising and progression. ‘The Power Ballad of Freyr’ has a Danzig-like stomp and the irrepressibly catchy ‘Ironwood’ trips along really well before the haunting closing where the main riff fades to leave a single acoustic guitar.

‘Helgrinda’ and ‘12th Spell’ are melodic mid-paced bangers that Abbath would be proud of and add some malevolence to proceedings. ‘Kveldulv’ is a straight up Viking Metal classic - rowing music - and Hjelvik injects some Tom G Warrior style growls - Ooooooohhh.

There are 2 guest appearances on ‘Welcome to Hel’. The first is by Matt Pike from High On Fire on the track ‘Glory Of Hel’. Pikes baritone vocals at first just complement Hjelvik’s higher pitches growls on the chorus but he gets a verse to himself later in the song and the contrast works really well and this is a definite highlight. The second guest is one of my favourite frontmen in the game - Mike Scalzi from (Lord Weird) Slough Feg. His epic guitar work and vocals bring an extra dimension to album closer ‘Necromance’. The track starts with the melodic black metal heard on ‘12th Spell’ but Scalzi joins with his clean vocals and Maiden-esqe riffing in the mid-section which elevates the track to be my favourite on an album full of fantastic tracks.

Hjelvik’s departure from Kvertelak was surprising to many at the time but with the band continuing to go from strength to strength, and Erlend producing an album of this quality, it seems that it worked out for both sides.

With ‘Welcome to Hel’, Hjelvik have taken the fun from Kvertelak, the icy atmosphere of the frozen north of Black Metal, added in the melody and power of traditional metal and some excellent musicians, and come up with a great Viking Metal album. Add in Norse mythology themes and awesome album artwork from Joe Petagno (who also created Motorhead’s iconic Snaggletooth mascot), ‘Welcome to Hel’ is a definite contender for album of 2020.

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