May 292020


Vanhelga are a Swedish band, the brainchild of J. Ottosson (aka “145188”), who from its inception in 2001 until roughly 2013 was the band’s vocalist and sole instrumentalist. Beginning with the release of the 2013 EP Sommar (which followed a pair of albums and a handful of shorter releases), he has been joined by a changing line-up of other musicians.

We’ve been following Vanhelga’s progress since Sommar, taking us through three more albums and further shorter releases, which demonstrated an evolving integration of stylistic ingredients that made the music (which could be simplistically labeled “melancholic black metal”) ever more difficult to pin down in genre terms but continually interesting.

Vanhelga have been at work on a new release, which follows up on their excellent 2018 album Fredagsmys, and today we’re announcing that by the end of June or early July we will be premiering a song from it named “Dagar som denna” — which translates to “days like these”. Continue reading »

Apr 262018


To the millions who wait with bated breath for a new SHADES OF BLACK column each Sunday (okay, just the two of you sulking in the corner), I apologize for being a disappointment last Sunday. By the time I finished writing the two premieres we committed to do for that day, I had run out of time. In an effort to make amends, I decided to prepare what you’re now looking at.

The songs I’ve chosen here aren’t the ones I had planned to feature last Sunday. I’ll get to those, or at least some of them, next Sunday, the Dark Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. What I have here are a few of the songs I’ve discovered since the past weekend. I’ll warn you, or titillate you in advance, that all of them are intense.


To begin, I’ve chosen “Relationship in Pieces“, the first track to be revealed from Fredagsmys, the new album by the continually evolving, persistently interesting Swedish band Vanhelga. It has been presented through a video that displays the lyrics, in Swedish. Continue reading »

Sep 302016

Vanhelga-Ode and Elegy


I discovered Sweden’s Vanhelga three years ago through the release of their wonderful EP, Sommar (reviewed here). For that EP, Vanhelga’s creator Jacob Ottosson (aka “145188”) was joined for the first time by Johan Gabrielson (“1853”), a former member of the late, lamented Lifelover, as a vocalist and lyricist. To be honest, that Lifelover connection was what first drew me into Vanhelga’s music, although the band had previously released two full-length albums and five shorter works. Sommar made such a deep and lasting impression that I included one of its tracks on our list of 2013’s Most Infectious Extreme Metal Songs.

Vanhelga’s third album in 2014, Längtan, was yet another wondrous revelation, and by then Jacob Ottosson was joined not only by Gabrielson but also by guitarists J. Ejnarsson (Taketh) and Wadström (ex-Skogstron) and drummer D. Franzén.

And now we find ourselves on the verge of yet another Vanhelga album, this one entitled Ode & Elegy. It will be released on October 1, and today it’s our pleasure to bring you a stream of the album in its entirety. Continue reading »

Jul 292016

Meshuggah revolver ad-2


I mentioned in a post earlier this week that I’ve been distracted during nights this week by a televised political convention (because I am a political junkie with low willpower), and I also had to make a quick out-of-town trip. Metal didn’t wait for me while I was diverted, and so I have an immense list of new things from the last few days that I want to recommend. I’ve cut the list down to a mere 10 items, which I’ve collected here. Seriously, I’m aware that 10 is a lot, so I’ve choked back my usual desire to spill a lot of words.

I’m starting with two news items and then following those with 8 new songs or videos, presented in alphabetical order by the name of the artist.


I no longer subscribe to Revolver magazine. If I still had the subscription, I might have seen the full-page ad at the top of this post, which so far seems to be the only disclosure that Meshuggah’s new album The Violent Sleep of Reason will be released by Nuclear Blast on October 7. Here’s another fan pic of the ad: Continue reading »

Feb 242014

Happy fucking Monday. Blech, it really hurt to write that. Here are some recommended tunes and videos I heard and saw over the last 24 hours, most of them on a day that wasn’t a fucking Monday.


This first item falls into the category of breaking news:  Century Media has just announced details about the new album from Finland’s Insomnium, along with a teaser of the music. The album’s title is Shadows of the Dying Sun, and the cover art is at the top of this post. It will be released on April 29 in North America and April 28 in Europe.

The teaser is brief — 1:23 of new music. It consists of chiming guitars against a backdrop of ghostly ambience. It feels like the lead-in to some monstrous doomy riffs — but that could just be wishful thinking on my part. More wishful thinking: I would like to have this album today instead of two months from now. Undoubtedly advance tracks will be released. Undoubtedly we will have them here as quickly as we see them.

Check out the teaser next. Continue reading »

Feb 052014

Welcome to Part 20 of our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. For more details about what this list is all about and how it was compiled, read the introductory post via this link. To see the selections that preceded the songs I’m announcing today, click here.

In an effort to complete this list in your lifetime, I’ve decided to start tripling up, but hopefully not tripping up. From now until I finish, there will be three songs in each installment. As usual, I’m trying to group the songs together in ways that make some kind of sense. Perhaps you’ll decide that today’s songs are collected together because they really don’t fit anywhere else. I think they actually make a pretty cool little 3-part playlist.


For those not in the know, Author & Punisher is the part-band-part-art-project of Tristan Shone, who uses his skills as a mechanical engineer to create unique electronic instruments, out of which he wrings emotionally suffocating industrial doom, with heavy elements of dub and drone music. We have written about A&P frequently, and DGR reviewed the 2013 album, Women & Children here Continue reading »

Nov 102013

Vanhelga are a Swedish band, the brainchild of Jacob Ottosson (aka “145188”), who until recently has been the band’s vocalist and sole instrumentalist. With Vanhelga’s most recent EP, Sommar, he is joined for the first time by Johan Gabrielson (“1853”), a former member of the late, lamented Lifelover, as a vocalist and lyricist. To be honest, that Lifelover connection was what finally drew me into Vanhelga’s music, although the band have previously released two full-length albums and five shorter works.

Although Vanhelga themselves characterize Sommar as an EP (which explains the “Short But Sweet” title of this review), it’s almost 32 minutes long and includes seven songs. Other bands have used the “full-length album” label for shorter collections of music. But whatever the right characterization, there’s no denying that Sommar is a significant achievement.

Trying to describe, much less summarize, the music is difficult. It’s an unusual combination of styles, including (but not limited to) black metal, post-rock, post-punk, and gothic. Its overall atmosphere is melancholy and at times even depressive, with textures of urban angst and desolation — and occasional eruptions of fierce anger. The mainly mid-paced song structures are relatively simple and relatively conventional, with the component parts looping back on themselves in a way that cements the infectious but tormented melodies in the listener’s mind. But that’s not to suggest that the music itself is utterly stripped down or simple, and it’s certainly not to suggest that it ever ventures into any kind of comfortable territory. Continue reading »