Record Reviews

Album review: Hellsingland Underground “Endless Optimism”

Swedish rockers Hellsingland Underground are back with their sixth studio album, the fabulous “Endless Optimism”. Album of the year? Quite possibly so.

Northern rockers Hellsingland Underground are always an entertaining bunch. Founded in Ljusdal, Hellsingland, in rural Sweden in 2006, the band released its self-titled debut album in 2008. Even before they released the first album, they had made a big impression on music fans with their live performances. The band has toured in Sweden and other parts of Europe and released excellent albums ever since. While there have been some line-up changes over the years, the core trio of the band has always been Charlie Granberg (lead vocals), Peter Henriksson (guitar) and Martin Karlsson (bass). During the band’s journey, Jerry Åström Ask (guitar), Thomas Pettersson (piano and keyboards) and Johan Gröndal (drums and percussion) have also become important parts of the band. Make no mistake about it. This Swedish band is not merely a fabulous rock band. Hellsingland Underground is an attitude, a lifestyle. Thus, “Endless Optimism” is not just a CD or LP, it is a ticket to ride. It is your entry ticket to the Swedish countryside, to the county of Hellsingland and to the world of Hellsingland Underground. The music is essentially classic rock with big doses of folk rock, dust rock, Southern rock and much more. Much of it is rooted in the fine Nordic melancholy tradition. The songwriting skills are phenomenal, a splendid mix of great guitar riffs, beautiful melodies and the very personal and real stories told through Charlie’s witty lyrics. Song titles such as “Young and Dumb”, “Old White Men” and “Hustlin’ Around” may give you a hint of the topics that come up in the songs. Charlie is a terrific wordsmith. We get real-world, everyday observations like this gem from the track “Young and Dumb”: “You’re still hungry/But the kitchen is closed/You’ve got the money/But nowhere to go”. Or this from “Hustlin’ Around”: “I never had a real day job/Never saw the charm in people eating my soul”. Many of the lyrics on the album are deeply personal. We don’t get made-up stories of dragons or unicorns. We get real stuff from real people who happen to be musicians from Sweden. My love for this band is endless. The love they have for their own music and their fans shines through. This is the real deal. They play music because they have to. They came into this world to perform and entertain us. The new album is a rock’n’roll rollercoaster from the catchy opening track “Young and Dumb” to the closing track “Uninvited Guest” with its delicate and rootsy-sounding guitars. It has fabulous songs such as “Time Is Elastic”, “Big Fish”, “It Started with a Teardrop” and “Red Number One”. But singling out favourite tracks on an album this good and solid is kind of pointless. They are all bloody good songs. Sometimes some of these songs make me feel blue, but they are always terrific songs filled with emotions and wisdom. Is it a coincidence that this band a decade ago released a record called “Evil Will Prevail” and now they release an album called “Endless Optimism”? Are these Swedes becoming shiny happy people? Not quite. But Hellsingland Underground’s songs are always talking directly to the listeners. The barrier between the band up on stage and the audience watching is at times non-existent. That is how close this folksy band is to its audience. It’s one big family having a pre-gig barbeque or a post-gig beer. Do yourself a favour. Buy the album and get to know the music. You deserve it. Album of the year? Quite possibly so.

Hellsingland Underground’s new album “Endless Optimism” will be released via Wild Kingdom Records/Sound Pollution Distribution on 4th November.