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Hellsingland Underground – A Hundred Years Is Nothing

Hellsingland Underground
A Hundred Years Is Nothing
by Santiago Puyol at 03 September 2019, 12:26 AM

HELLSINGLAND UNDERGROUND is a Folk Rock sextet from Sweden with a dash of Alternative, Progressive and Psychedelic Rock influences. This sextet takes on a Jam Band vibe and a Classic Rock sensibility. Formed in 2006, "A Hundred Years Is Nothing" is their fifth album so far, following 2016’s "Understanding Gravity".

"Carnival Beyond the Hills" starts things off with an almost Western vibe. Desert landscapes and colorful characters are evoked under a blanket of echoing keyboards and guitars. The luminous chorus contrasts against the mysterious verses, bringing GRATEFUL DEAD or even PHISH to mind in their most euphoric moments. The last third of the song gets the band lost in joyful improvisation.

The band adopts a more Alt-Folk sound in "Strangeland" with soft piano lines and rhythmic acoustic guitar chords. The drums keep the tempo clear and constant. The use of synthesizers providing texture and blending organically with the acoustic instruments brings to mind the "Out of Time"-era R.E.M. At the end, the song descends into a sea of reverberation, disappearing into a fade-out.

"Criminal Summer" opts for a more musical, dramatic and tempo-changing vibe. The first half turns out to be a beautiful, slow piano ballad to waltz rhythm. Shortly after the forst two minutes, it transforms into a BEATLES-like Pop gem with jaunty piano and vocal harmonies. The textured guitar work sounds like a less-polished QUEEN, while the string arrangements provide an epic vibe. THE DEAR HUNTER could have written a similar song.

Bluesy piano and finger snaps introduce the catchy "The Blessing & the Curse". Once again, the BEATLES seem to be a reference point, although also the most Pop ROLLING STONES. "Rainbow's Gold" puts the focus on the Folk sound again, gently evoking Neil Young from "Harvest" or the early-era WILCO. Jerry Ask and Peter Henriksson stand out here, making their guitars sound like mandolins at times.

Droning sitar bookends the DIRE STRAITS-inspired "Elephant". HELLSINGLAND UNDERGROUND reminds of Mark Knopfler's band in albums like "Making Movies" or "Brothers in Arms" (at least the happier stuff) in particular, with an earthy sound though. The title track follows, a beautiful ballad with military march style drumming. There is so much passion, energy and joy in this song that I find it very hard to describe, it’s simply mesmerizing.

"I Win, You Lose, I Guess" explores sonorities close to Indie Pop, with a tongue-in-cheek style in the lyrics and Charlie Granberg's vocal delivery. "Pig Farm" could belong to the more pastoral side of WILCO or THE FLAMING LIPS. The samples of grunting pigs at the end will surely provoke some smiles and maybe a little jump on a first listen.

The last two tracks are polar opposites. "From Here to the Grave" is closer to Bruce Springsteen and brings with it a seventies vibe filtered by current production. Guitar solos channeling Mark Knopfler decorate the song. "Bloodlines", on the other hand, is a reverb-heavy, a piano ballad with Floydian vibes. Roger Waters, especially his compositional style in both "Wish You Were Here" and "The Wall" seem clear inspirations for this dramatic closer.

HELLSINGLAND UNDERGROUND may not be reinventing the wheel with "A Hundred Years Is Nothing", but they deliver a solid record with memorable choruses and sections, enough sound diversity to make it interesting and so much soul behind the music. The production stands out for how organic and warm it is, allowing each instrument to shine on its own without overshadowing anyone. This is an accessible and easily enjoyable album.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Carnival Beyond the Hills
2. Strangelands
3. Criminal Summer
4. The Blessing & the Curse
5. Rainbow’s Gold
6. Elephant
7. A Hundred Years Is Nothing
8. I Win, You Lose, I Guess
9. Pig Farm
10. From Here to the Grave
11. Bloodlines
Lineup:
Charlie Granberg – Lead Vocals & Harmonica
Jerry Ask – Guitars & Vocals
Peter Henriksson – Guitars & Vocals
Martin Karlsson – Bass & Vocals
Thomas Pettersson – Keyboards
Patrik Jansson – Drums
Record Label: Wild Kingdom Records
     


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