Style: Adventure Rock
Similar bands: Horisont, Wytch Hazel, Tanith, Night (since “Raft of the World”)
Release date: 20.03.2020
Label: Napalm Records
For Excellence in Heaviness, I came up with a concept from the start and derived “rules” from it. The most important of these rules is that I don’t want to deal with boring or even bad music, which is why I only review releases that I like to listen to and that I can recommend without reservation. Another rule is that I only write about Metal – not the mainstream kind of Metal, but releases some readers hopefully don’t already know.
The first rule is and remains impregnable, because life is too short for bad music. But I already had itchy fingers to break the second rule in 2017, when the first Adventure Rock record by HÄLLAS was released, which inspired me as much as no Rock album had for a long time. This second record of the Swedes has just been released – and now I can’t hide myself behind a rule any longer. I want to scream to the world how much I love HÄLLAS! That’s why I’m exceptionally breaking the “Metal only” rule for this album.
But what makes this band so special? And why should metalheads even care about their new album? Despite all my enthusiasm, this is not easy to answer.
Let’s start with the genre name “Adventure Rock”, chosen by the band itself. This designation is not only unused, it also describes HÄLLAS’ style very precisely. It is not hard enough for Heavy Metal, not complex enough for Prog Rock, not experimental enough for Psychedelic Rock, not distortion-free enough for Folk Rock, not commercial enough for AOR and not danceable enough for Disco. And yet, you can find elements from all these genres in the sound of these retro rockers, which are to be discovered – like an adventurous journey. If you listen to Metal, you’re probably used to wild genre mixes – with HÄLLAS this is maybe just a little bit more challenging. In terms of lyrical concept, the album tells the ending of a three-part epic Fantasy / Sci-Fi story – which also is no new territory for metalheads.
I would like to continue the description of this extraordinary band by guessing a few of their probable influences, because that usually helps quite well to sort a band. Above all, WISHBONE ASH should be mentioned, which are known to have used (and very likely even invented) the twin lead guitars (even before IRON MAIDEN did), which are also part of the repertoire of HÄLLAS. From GOBLIN and RUSH they may have derived the effective use of keyboards and synthesizers, as well as their penchant for the epic. HAWKWIND could have been the inspiration for the pychedelic Space Rock elements, THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT, CAMEL and GENESIS for the progressive parts. Parallels to the very early NWOBHM (e.g. BUDGIE) add to the quintet’s heaviness.
But HÄLLAS are so much more than the sum of their influences! Therefore, this list should not be understood as if HÄLLAS would not have to offer anything of their own or new, because it’s the complete opposite of that. Please forgive my marginal knowledge of the genre, but I haven’t heard a band in Retro / Vintage Rock in a long time that can not only measure up to the “ancient ones”, but has also created something as unique and beautiful as these Swedes. They dreamily put the besotted metalhead under their spell with magical compositions, put him into a trance with one of the most captivating voices in recent Rock history and finally send him into unknown cosmic spheres.
HÄLLAS are an unusual work of art that has to offer so much more than nerdy 70s / 80s escapists in strange costumes and make-up. I would therefore not even go as far as to say that you have to think outside the box of Metal to like HÄLLAS – you just have to want to embark on an adventure.