My childhood was a blur, but I had a rather distinct memory of someone from the First Grade. Remember when you were a kid, if you did something exemplary, your teacher would reward you with a sticker to show for your efforts? There was a kid in my class named Jason (last name escapes me) who won a “You’re the Cat’s MEOW!!!” sticker, complete with purring kitty and stars bedazzling the pre-Comic Sans font in gold letters. After slapping the sticker on his wrist, Jason was dismayed that due to adolescent sweating and kid grubbiness, it wouldn’t stick. Luckily, he had the grand idea that stapling the sticker to the underside of his wrist would be a nice way to permanently show off his rewards. Gleefully, Jason ran around the room, giggling incessantly and displaying the proud reward of his efforts as color drained from his face and blood jizzed from his arm, both at an alarming rate. Jason would eventually repeat the First Grade. Twice. What’s the point of this story? Sweden’s Vanhelga (“desecrate” in Swedish) would provide the perfect soundtrack to Jason’s happy bloodletting with their third full-length, Längtan.
Do you hate life but love Lifelover? Wish that Bethlehem called it a day after Dictius Te Necare? There is much to be happily depressed about here. Beautifully strummed acoustic guitars and almost-polka drumming leads off “Svartsint ömhet,” giving you this false air of folky peppiness until the absolutely batshit crazy vocals of J. Gabrielson (ex-Lifelover) have you fearing for your safety and reaching for your Lexapro. There’s also a pretty interesting, if a bit out-of-place, lead guitar section near the end as the drums crash out.
In fact, acoustic guitar and Gabrielson’s yowling, giggling, and chanting are front-and-center throughout Längtan. Light piano plinking again lulls the listener on “Där evigheten inväntar mig” before Gabrielson again escapes his conveniently padded room and giggles at you with bloodsoaked glee. “Kärleksföklaring” would be something Today Is the Day would pen if Steve Austin decided to hang out with Shining‘s Niklas Kvarforth, both of them cooing and awwing like the “live” audience during an uncomfortable episode of Full House. “Föbarma,” at just under four minutes, feels like an eternity thanks to the dispondent, almost Katatonia-like atmosphere dripping through its diseased core.
And that’s the only knock I have against Längtan. It feels WAY longer than it actually is, thanks to the production and the songwriting of mainman/guitarist 145188. With the vocals and acoustic guitar being the main draw (and what a draw they are), the drums can be barely audible and the distorted guitars are ultra fuzzed-out. As for the songwriting, admittedly, I couldn’t make it through the album in one sitting, as it was just too much bleakness and schizophrenia to indulge in one giant heaping spoonful… and I believe that’s what they wanted, so props to them for achieving this feat.
Like Grivo from the film Brain Candy, Vanhelga heard about this new drug that makes you happy, and they just wanna say, with Längtan… FUCK HAPPY. This is the perfect soundtrack for the adult Jason, who is probably eating paint chips, taking selfies in front of trains passing by, and enjoying his fifth Celexa and absinthe cocktail of the morning. [Is one of those bloody hoodie freaks your old bud Jason? — Steel Druhm].