Fredlös – Fredlös Review

The medieval hellscape on Fredlös’ cover caught my eye at once. The scene would be peaceful and pastoral, if not for the gruesome executions, the demon, and the burning buildings. Then I noticed the dancing skeletons, the shallow graves, the corpses on the border, the apocalyptic background, and the skull and crossbones; there isn’t a glimmer of hope anywhere. Intrigued, I dug deeper. Fredlös is a side project of Entombed’s Alex Hellid, and the band’s debut attempts to narrate the late Middle Ages with a mix of folk elements and metal. The music matches the cover art to a T. Dark but beautiful, Fredlös blends these genres seamlessly, even if it lasts too long along the way.

Fredlös’ folk influences are inextricable from their metal foundation. Predictably, Fredlös contains some misty-eyed black metal in the vein of Agalloch (“Fredlös,” “Requiem”). The album also dabbles in blackened thrash riffs on faster cuts like “Farsot” and “Uppror.” What I didn’t expect was the heavy presence of doom, particularly in the slow rhythmic chords that often serve as a backdrop. Fredlös’ triumph lies in incorporating other styles without compromising quality. A violin adds occasional flair by both harmonizing with the guitars and playing lush solo melodies (“Otto”), neither overshadowing the guitars nor yielding to them. Fredlös’ folkiest element is its vocals. Lead singer Liv Hope steals the show with open-hearted cleans from a village of yore, backed by choir vocals and a male voice that approaches shouts. These vocal melodies stand out during even the most metal sections, at times resembling more traditional doom acts like Trees of Eternity (“Undergång”). While folk metal is often just mediocre extreme metal padded with acoustic interludes, Fredlös has worked hard to unify the two halves of their sound.

Fredlös’ style works because of solid performances across the board. The fiercest parts of Fredlös are impressively catchy, like the opening riff and threatening guitar solos on “Uppror.” On the other end, the gorgeous strings lend a sorrowful air to the tracks that open and close the album. The star of the show is Hope’s vocals. They’re powerful enough to dominate even amidst metal instrumentals (“Farsot”) and above choral vocals (“Otto”). Conversely, her intentionally unpolished voice sounds vulnerable enough to make me tear up, like during the doomy chorus of “Missväxt.”1 Hope’s vocal melodies are rich with violent crescendos, soft croons, staccatos, and wild melisma that sounds like Myrkur on crack, shattering my emotional seismometer while holding me rapt (“Requiem”). Still, Fredlös struggles when it plays things safe compared to these bold highlights. The album excels with aggressive black metal, tear-jerking doom, and string-led beauty, but falters in its vanilla mid-paced sections. Fredlös would feel more consistent if those segments were removed or replaced.

Fredlös’ knack for building each song up from a few ideas is both their strength and their downfall. Closer “Requiem” is the best example, leading with a stunning layered buildup whose melodies are echoed over the next thirteen minutes across both black metal tremolos and serene violin solos. The rest of the record follows suit, like the thoughtful intertwining of verse and chorus melodies in “Uppror” and the violin theme woven throughout “Otto.” This painstaking songwriting pounds each idea into my mind, making both the album’s harsh climaxes and its emotive softer sections stay vivid as I write this. Still, Fredlös tends to go overboard with repetition in its quest for cohesion. No track here is filler, but nearly every song could be slashed. Tracks like “Våt varm jord” and “Missväxt” present fantastic ideas that repeat too many times, while ​​“Farsot” and “Fredlös” bulge with generic black metal that doesn’t play to Fredlös’ strengths. Fredlös is packed with quality material but sometimes sees my mind wander.

I’m in the unenviable but familiar situation of reviewing an album that’s unique, engaging, and poorly edited. Fredlös’ hour-long debut would easily score half a point higher if it were 15 minutes shorter. As it stands, it’s an impressive record that blends folk influences into a doomy blackened base without diluting either. To top it off, Liv Hope’s vocal performance is both unconventional and unforgettable, and will be among my favorites from 2023. I didn’t expect an Entombed member to make compelling music of this ilk, but Fredlös is a pleasant surprise.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320kb/s mp3
Label: Threeman Recordings
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. An archaic Swedish word for “unvaxxed.”
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