It is sometimes hard to categorize an album or group. HELLSINGLAND UNDERGROUND is a perfect example. This is their fifth studio album but it’s the first time I hear them. According to the bio they have changed their music style a bit since last time.
Apparently they have been quite blues oriented earlier, and some dark folky elements. This time there is progressive rock, pure melodic rock/pop and even a hunch of soft hard rock as well as r’n’b involved. And the result is something quite unique!
This 6-man band consists of CHARLIE GRANBERG (Vocals & Synthesizers), PETER HENRIKSSON (Guitars and vocals), JERRY ASK (Guitars and vocals), THOMAS PETTERDON (Keyboards, piano and syntheseizers), MARTIN KARLSSON (Bass & Vocals), and PATRIK JANSSON (Drums, percussion and vocals).
One favourite track is the second song ”Strangelands” which is a cool rock/pop tune reminding me of THE OUTFIELD and HUMAN RADIO. Sure, more than a hunch of Swedish WEEPING WILLOWS, too. Even the lead voice of Granberg is quite similar to the Willows’ lead singer MAGNUS CARLSON. Not as hi-pitched but otherwise. The song is followed by “Criminal summer” which evokes into a quite ELO and SPARKS tinged tune after a while!
“The blessing & the curse” is too much rock’n’roll for my taste, but it will surely find a lot of fans anyway. It has a cool sound, not the common r’n’r sound but richer. More Weeping Willows spices in “Rainbow’s gold”. STATUS QUO meets TRAVELING WILBURYS in “Elephant” which is another song where the band and producer MARTIN KARLSGÅRD has really succeeded. The title track “A hundred years is nothing” is a little treasure in itself, being a quite intense pop/rocker where I think of a modern BOB DYLAN mixed with DIRE STRAITS (but more tempo filled).
It’s a solid group when it comes to playing and singing. Even in the songs where the style is not what I usually listen much to, I am quite hooked. Take “I win you lose I guess” as an example; something like PAUL SIMON meets MEN AT WORK and THE HOOTERS. I mentioned DIRE STRAITS earlier, and the guitar playing on this album reminds me a lot of Mark Knopfler’s nice and tasteful playing.
There is also a country rocker here: “Pig farm”. Maybe this is a song that sounds more like what HELLSINGLAND UNDERGROUND has been into on previous releases, I’m not sure. It feels very odd here, I’d say, and in my humble opinion it should not have made the cut. Now we’ve reached the final phase of the album and you should focus on the fine song “From here to the grave” instead. Once again the singing from Granberg is a perfect match in balance with the r’n’b pop/rock, and the song reminds me a bit of some of MIKAEL RICKFORS’ stuff.
This is an album that has the possibility to gain fans and listeners from many music genres. With a fresh sound that signals “real stuff”, and fine melodies, I warmly recommend it.