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Helga - Wrapped In Mist review

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Band: Helga
Album: Wrapped In Mist
Release date: November 2023

01. Skogen Mumlar
02. Burden
03. Water
04. If Death Comes Now
05. Farväl
06. Alive Again
07. Vast And Wild
08. Som En Trumma
09. Mountain Song
10. Wrapped In Mist

When I first heard Helga with the release of their single “Skogen Mumlar”, I was immediately excited for a great neofolk-metal hybrid album. As it turns out, Wrapped In Mist is only partially folk, and only partially metal; however, it’s a very solid debut album.

Helga started off as the solo project of Swedish singer-guitarist Helga Gabriel, although her first couple of EPs and singles were created using a handful of recurring session musicians. These initial recordings had only the loosest hints of metal in them, instead coming across as something of a dark folk/art pop/rock fusion. Things changed, however, in 2019, when Gabriel moved to England and established a five-person line-up for Helga, whose full album debut comes courtesy of Season Of Mist. Wrapped In Mist builds upon the music from Helga’s solo phase, while also expanding the frontiers of the project’s sound.

When thinking of projects that mix metal and Nordic neofolk, one’s mind goes naturally to Myrkur, whose Mareridt is one of the few albums I can think of that successfully attempts a more naturalistic Nordic folk metal sound (at least, without going heavily into black metal territory). Myrkur is, not coincidentially, probably the most natural artist to compare Wrapped In Mist to, although the more relevant album in my eyes is Myrkur’s newest release, Spine. Like Spine, Wrapped In Mist spans several genres, which includes metal and folk of a more spiritual persuasion, but also other contemporary styles, most notably artsy pop. Probably the most striking resemblance is that both albums have very brief flirtations with more blackened metal; in the case of Helga, it is on “Farväl”, which alternates sorrowful violin and ethereal vocal arrangements with passages that feature shrieks and, in the case of the ending, blasts and atmo-black tremolo riffs.

Beyond this song, which is definitely an aberration within the context of the album, there are several tracks that incorporate metal elements, and several that feature folk influences. The two songs outside of “Farväl” that best fuse both of these aspects of their sound are (also probably not coincidentially) the other two with names in Swedish, “Skogen Mumlar” and “Som En Trumma”. “Skogen Mumlar”, as alluded to in the opening sentence, has a heavy presence of ominous neofolk atmosphere and fanciful folksy vocal melodies, but also an ever-growing presence of metallic distortion that adds an increasing depth to the song’s entrancing atmosphere. “Skogen Mumlar” remains my favourite song here, but “Som En Trumma” also has a great evolution from an enchanting, fantastical folksy first half with lingering distortion that gradually takes over in a heavy climax (featuring a quick return from the harsher vocals).

As far as other songs that are most likely to appeal to readers of a metal website, the groovy “Burden” (a song with hints of modern Leprous in some of its rhythm) has a chunky distorted backdrop to its chorus, but the song that will probably turn most heads is the closing title track, which shifts in dramatic fashion from a dreamy acoustic intro to a midsection that sounds very much like a passage left on the cutting room floor of Opeth’s Blackwater Park writing sessions. Moving away from the metal, “Water” is possibly the most ‘straight’ folk song here, dominated by Helga’s floating vocals, with a relatively minimal backdrop.

The more interesting non-metal songs for me, however, are those that fuse the folk elements with other genres. On the one hand, you have “If Death Comes Now” and “Mountain Song” both showing off post-rock influences in the guitarwork in contrast to the ethereal vocals and (in the latter case) lush violin arrangements. On the flip side, the poppier tendencies of “Alive Again” and “Vast And Wild” pleasantly take my mind to acts such as Kalandra. “Vast And Wild” in particular stands out as a triumph on this album, mixing enchanting semi-chanted singing with more direct vocal melodies in the chorus that carry a resemblance to some of Aurora’s work, all capped off with multi-faceted writing on the instrumental side that brings together strings, percussion beats that mix tribal and hip-hop elements, and later on some soft rock.

From what I can see, Wrapped In Mist is the first recording coming from the full-band version of Helga, and if that’s so, it’s a very impressively mature first collaboration; there’s quite a few sounds being brought together here, and yet they do it in a manner that sounds very natural, producing some well-crafted songs spanning a range of styles. Even as I was moving past my initial disappointment on my first listen that the whole album wasn’t reminiscent of “Skogen Mumlar”, I was able to appreciate the quality of what they’d produced here, and with some more exposure, I’ve warmed to it quite a lol. Stylistically, this album is quite similar to Spine, but I do think that Helga have eclipsed the quality of Myrkur’s latest with their own efforts.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 26.11.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 7   Visited by: 75 users
26.11.2023 - 20:12
Rating: 8
A Nice Guy
I find this release absolutely stunning, thanks for bringing it to my attention. There's such a sweet majestic softness about it, the instrumentation is so beautifully crafted, and her vocals are so angelic, and I love the way they softly echo. The tracks seem to be quite short though, not that it's too much of a problem but I would have liked them to have ran a tiny bit longer.
27.11.2023 - 04:21
Rating: 9

One of the best albums I’ve heard this year and an incredible debut. This one continues to grow on me. Andy you should check their EPs if you haven’t, they are a bit different than the album but I enjoyed them as well.
27.11.2023 - 15:46
Rating: 9
Holy shit, this one was unexpectedly incredible
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
28.11.2023 - 22:49
Rating: 10

Fully agree with the comments, this is really an amazing album, the mix of genres is like... a new genre in itself?! I cannot believe it fits so well, but it does.

and to add a note: some guitars and passages remind me of western movies soundtracks, Ennio Morricone type (opening of Som en Trumma, opening of Skogen Mumlar).

thanks for reviewing this!
02.12.2023 - 20:30

Wasnt seduced by myrkur, not sure if helga can do a better job
05.12.2023 - 17:36
Rating: 9
Alex F
Slick Dick Rick
I'll mirror the sentiment above and say that this album took me totally by surprise. Some really interesting stylistic variation going on without ever feeling out of place or clunky
20.12.2023 - 03:22
Rating: 9
Dr. Quark
It's lovely!

Thank you for cluing us in. I found this through the album charts, and I hypothesize the review is the main reason it's up there. Thank you for your hard work. I appreciate it a lot.

Stuff like this seemingly minor experience is what makes Metal Storm the best music community I know of.

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