Album Biography by Dom Lawson
A storm is brewing. A rebirth is on its way. Prepare for the triumphant arrival of HJELVIK.
Formerly known as frontman, lyricist, and co-founder of the Norwegian party-rockers Kvelertak, Erlend Hjelvik parted ways with his bandmates in 2018 and has spent the last two years biding his time and plotting a return to action. Today, he is a rejuvenated and newly inspired metal warrior, primed and ready to launch his own solo band, HJELVIK, and their thunderous and life-affirming debut album, Welcome to Hel.
“I guess it was always in the back of my mind that I would do something on my own at some point,” says Erlend. “I just didn’t quite know how! I started writing songs when I left my old band and then suddenly it really started rolling. The whole songwriting process went even better than I expected and I’m really excited about getting started again.”
Steeped in the classic sounds of metal, both underground and mainstream, and enshrouded in a mystical fog of Norse mythology, HJELVIK’s first immaculate collection of monstrous anthems is the sound of a modern god of heaviness embracing the spirit of the old school and injecting it with his own unique, genre-blurring charisma. Recorded at The Hallowed Halls in Portland, Oregon in collaboration with studio guru Justin Phelps, Welcome To Hel is a vivid and vital testament to Erlend Hjelvik’s instinctive metal mastery and a celebration of the music that first inspired the Norwegian to start screaming many years ago.
“Over the last couple of years I really started listening to a lot of metal again,” he notes. “While I was in my last band, I just didn’t listen to it as much, particularly when I was on tour. So I started getting in the mood for it again, and that definitely seeped through. I feel like I regressed a little bit, I just started feeling inspired by bands that I liked when I was a lot younger. So suddenly I’d write something that would sound like some old Dimmu Borgir riff! [Laughs]. But I’ve been inspired by a lot of first and second wave black metal, thrash metal bands… just the classics, basically!”
From the opening seconds of explosive kick-off Father War onwards, Welcome To Hel could hardly be a more bombastic or furious first foray for HJELVIK. Pounding, mid-paced clarion cries like Thor’s Hammer and The Power Ballad Of Freyr point to a profound understanding of heavy metal’s fundamental power, but there is plenty of frostbitten spite and otherworldly menace lurking amid these songs, too. From the menacing but instantly memorable Glory Of Hel to the wild melodrama and skewed dissonance of closer Necromance, HJELVIK are gleefully stirring up a strange, idiosyncratic sonic blend that provides their leader and frontman with the perfect, scorched-earth backdrop for his twisted tales of ancient chaos.
“I came up with ‘blackened Viking heavy metal’ as a description,” Erlend grins. “I think that hits on everything that’s in there. The songs are all about Norse mythology and Norwegian history, and I mixed a lot of personal experiences in there too. It’s called Welcome To Hel, so obviously I’ve been pretty fascinated with the idea of underworlds in Norse mythology. There’s a song called North Tsar, which will be the first single, and that’s based on Odin being a real-life person, a warlord coming from the East somewhere, and fighting his way to the West. So I like to throw some real elements in there, too.”
Despite the calamities and challenges that 2020 has thrown at us all, the birth of HJELVIK and the release of Welcome To Hel are guaranteed to give metalheads of every stripe a new reason to be cheerful. The current pandemic may be forcing everyone to postpone tours and scrap plans, but a project with the energy, momentum and ferocity of HJELVIK simply cannot be stopped. As a result, once Welcome To Hel has been unleashed into the world, Erlend and his band mates will be working tirelessly to create the most explosive and dynamic live show possible. As soon as the world is ready, so will they be…
“The stage show has to be great, obviously, so we’re working on all of that right now,” Erlend confirms. “I’d like to have lots of pyro and things like that. Oh, and I have a cape now, too! [Laughs] That’s a new thing. I’m drawing a little on old Mercyful Fate there, for inspiration. You can’t sing about Norse mythology and just be wearing normal, everyday clothing.”
Meanwhile, the grand finishing touches on HJELVIK’s glorious arrival have been delivered by legendary artist Joe Petagno, whose stunning, epic artwork adorns the cover of Welcome To Hel, setting the scene for the record and this rabid new musical force’s conceptual world.
“Joe’s a great guy. Everyone knows he did Motorhead’s classic album covers, right? He told me that he got the idea for the album cover from a dream he had!” Erlend laughs. “He’s really into Norse mythology so he was the perfect match for this record. I’m really looking forward to finally get a physical copy of this in my hands, because it feels like we recorded it ages ago now!”
In times of trouble, heavy metal is always there to light the way forward. Tapping into the genre’s ageless spirit and letting rip with pure Viking fervour, HJELVIK are here to provide the perfect antidote to these fucked-up times. As their fearless leader proudly proclaims,
“I’m really looking forward to getting out there again. It’s been nice to have a break, but I’m ready to start touring again and get on stage. That’s what I love doing. I’m really proud of the album, the band is really great and I’m ready for anything. It’s great to be back!”