As an idea in the back of One's mind, the Swedish “Black Metal” act Vanhelga has been in existence at least since 2001, but the nihilistic hateful thoughts behind it have been the core life teachings of One, also known as 145188 (in real life as J. Ottosson), whom as a child looked around at all the domesticated people with their meaningless lifestyles around him... and decided that society was no place for him, and from there that life itself, as lived by so many around him, was no place for him. So he would pave his own path, and becoming a musician was the most natural progression!
He eventually sided up with two other musicians in 2003, and operating from base town Motola (Sweden) the trio known as Skogstron went on to release the 5-tracked 2004 demo Min Tron in 2004. But things didn't quite work out well (basically, the misanthropic and hateful thoughts of Ottosson – then operating under the monicker of Taurendil – didn't fare well with the other guys), and so the band folded. But 145188 (still as Taurendil) persevered, and that same year saw the foundation of the two-man act Náttfari, which released only an 8-track demo entitled Hymn To Chaos, in late August 2005. But although only one other person was involved, Ottosson still was unable to express his dark thoughts to his own satisfaction, with the inevitable folding of thàt band as a result as well!
Starting a one-man project seemed to be the only answer, and so that's what 145188 eventually did. As Vanhelga (which translates as “profane”), he released his 4-track debut demo Enslaved By God (issued through D.T.M. Productions) in 2009, and had a very fruitful release year in 2010, when several releases saw the light of day (or, should I rather say, “were unleashed into the dark vastness of night”?): debut full-length Mortem Illuminate Mea was issued by Inominatus Productions, 6-track demo Disembowel The Illusion by Metal throne Produstions, Hellspell Productions released the 4-way split (the other bands involved being Morbid Frost, Omen, and Vinterslav) album The Ensemble Of Dark Desire, and Svartgalgh Records issued the 2-track, 15:47 EP The End Of Reason. All the above eventually led to Vanhelga getting signed onto the Art Of propaganda roster, whom released a first EP of 6 tracks, entitled Angest, in late November 2011.
Along the way, 145188 had learned to appreciate the lyrics of J. Gabrielson, formerly of Eskapi, and then still of Lifelover, and when that latter band folded, he contacted Gabrielson about some lyrics for his project over the internet. Although Gabrielsons heart wasn't in it (he'd just sworn to himself that he'd never have anything to do with the music business anymore), he still sent 145188 some half-baked stuff which, to his own surprise, severely impressed the latter with their grim bleakness. Meanwhile, Vanhelga released its 2nd full-length Höst in December 2012, but for 145188 it was clear that a new release would have Gabrielson contributing vocals on a next Vanhelga release. And that's exactly what he did, renaming himself 1853 for the occasion, on the November 2013 “EP” release Sommar (with 7 tracks adding up to almost 32 minutes of playing time, one should talk rather of a mini-album, eh?).
Already before Sommar's release, it was decided that 1853 become a steady fixture in Vanhelga and, hit by a wave of inspiration, the two were already creating a host of new material, which we now find on this 12-track, 65-minute Längtan! For a first in a long time, 145188 even invited other musicians into the recording project, with D. Franzén taking care of drums, and Taketh's J. Ejnarsson playing the second guitar (with 145188 taking care of the bass and other guitar play). Things apparently went really well, and a mutual accord was found for the foundation of an actual band, with Franzén and Ejnarsson being recruited, as well as 145188's old bandmate D. Wadström (ex-Skogstron) picking up the second guitar (leaving 145188 to take care of the bass and backing vocals only). In fact, as we speak the band has just done a short Swedish tour (with Kall and Harakiri).
But, I'm running ahead of myself, because first I still have to talk some about the album at hand, don't I? Well, as indicated in the opening words of this here review, you should not expect your middle-of-the-road Black Metal act! There's actually quite a lot of “acoustic” guitar being used (even some piano – for which no credits are mentioned!), and what there is of electric guitar is mixed towards the back of the sound. If the latter seems like a weird thing for a Black Metal act, it is nevertheless not an uncommon one, although I guess on many albums of the Nordic Black Metal scene of the past, it was mainly due to inappropriate recording/ production techniques. With Vanhelga, that “lo-fi” sound is obviously sought on purpose, and for one thing, it sure allows the somewhat awkward vocals to come to the fore. And let it be these vocals which are the most unique thing about current-day Vanhelga! No actual singing, but rather a constant wailing and complaining, interspersed with regular uttering of despair, making for a unique type of “spoken word” beyond compare! Lyrics are mostly in Swedish, but with a couple of exceptions: “Joyless” and “Eternal Night” are found to contain English lyrics, and in the latter case for once the acoustics are set aside, making for a “normal” Black Metal song with the vocalist actually singing! I remember at least a part of some song (cannot pace my finger on it right now) containing German lyrics (oh wait, could it have been “Förbarma”...yeah, I guess it is!), and of course there's always the possibility that sóme parts of certain songs still also have English passages as well (hard to tell occasionally, what with the vocal stylings involved)!
To get a whiff of the whole, surf to (www.) vanhelga.com, at the homepage of which you'll find a music player with the current album's “Där Evigheten Inväntar Mig” (also as video), and some older songs. At (www.) facebook.com/officialvanhelga, there's an extra audio track, as well as more videos (of older material). Not your kind of music you'd put on on a sunny day...except perhaps after you've found that, with your business failing, your house is being impounded and, as your best friends all leave you to rot, you also find that the “love of your life” has cleared out your apartment, leaving only a notification of divorce...and your mp3-player with music of Vanhelga on it! On the other hand, a lot of people LIKE to see things from the grimmest side! Obviously, that's not me, but I càn appreciate the musical art form which is Vanhelga!