Hjortene – ‘Hjortene’ album review

Hjortene - Front Cover

Hjortene are a bit of an enigma. Despite being labelled as stoner-psychedelic rock, they brim with an energy that’s more often found in punk. Having not encountered them before, I was unsure of what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by what came out of my speakers.

The opening track, 180.000 km/t (feat. Valient Himself), is an explosive opener, beginning with whispered vocals and with a sludgy guitar sound that fuzzes along to what sounds like a possessed drummer attempting to destroy his drum kit. A brief thrash out section resolves into an extremely thick and fuzzy riff that kickstarts the first verse, delivered with blistering tempo and punk-y rawness. More fuzzy riffs follow the first verse, before the song abruptly drops tempo and slides into feedback-y goodness for a brief measure, before flipping back into the intro riff. It’s clear to see that Hjortene have sat down and taken a few great riffs and built the song around them as well as the explosive drumming. If you’ve not heard a Hjortene song, this is a great introduction.

Hjortene-Press2014-PHOTOLarsAsmussen

The next song, Igennem Hårde Tider, starts off with drums and a looping fuzz guitar riff that wouldn’t sound out of place in a convertible cruising along in the desert. Bass, guitar and drums start to slowly build up to an explosive climax before the vocals kick in, and the song settles into a comfortable tempo for most of its duration, never really deviating from sounding like it’s building up to something big. The ending section of the song features a switch up into staccato riff territory and howled vocals to act as a counterpoint to the riffs. Definitely one of the more laidback tracks on the album, this would make a great soundtrack to long drives.

Weber is the third track, and is a hearkening to punk roots. Dirty fuzz riffs punctuate the song, along with staccato vocal delivery, and the drumming can only be described as “controlled wildness”. A guitar bridge shows the bands psychedelic side, before more vocals hearkening to a punk era kick in again. One of the weaker songs on the album, but still a solid effort overall.

Classic Rock FM showcases the bands ability to come up with crushing riffs. With an intro that sounds like a Black Sabbath song, right down to the dirty fuzz guitar tone, before kicking into an awesome verse riff, vocals shriek out above the chugging guitars and frenetic drumming. This is definitely one of my highlights of the album as it showcases a different side to Hjortene, one that is unafraid to show the influences that have helped them grow as a band. An absolutely crashing bridge section showcases some incredible riffs and drumming, before the song kicks back in with riffs that have already been shoved deep within the listeners brain, before ending all too abruptly.

Epic Indian is the mid section of the album, and also shows off a taster of what’s come before on the album. The intro lasts for over 3 minutes, and explores a psychedelic sound texture whilst also keeping the listener entranced with a meandering guitar riff that slowly worms its way inside. Again, this sounds like the perfect driving soundtrack in the desert. After three minutes though, the tempo changes slightly and a different guitar sound is introduced, with a changed riff which plays slightly quicker. This is all before a crashing wave of a riff slams into you, and drags you under its textures. Quick riffs and slow chugging riffs play off against each other in this instrumental, and this song really does highlight just how versatile Hjortene are. A fuzzy wah solo caps the song, before giving way to feedback and raw noise to end the entire song. One of the more impressive tracks on the album.

Pounding Hammer opens with distant drumming, before a frenetic sludgy riff kicks in over the top of the drums, showcasing once again the bands ability to pick a great riff and work with it. Vocals are shouted above the sludgy riffs, and the two intertwine and play off against each other. The riffs in this have definitely taken inspiration from doom metal, giving listeners a treat and an opportunity to explore the Hjortene take on different genres.

James Brown is the shortest track on the album, but despite this, still manages to pack a massive punch in terms of energy. Vocals are slammed into the listeners ears as the drums and fuzzy guitar play with each other, and the tempo slowly picks up throughout the song until it finally goes along at full gallop, managing to outdo itself in terms of how much energy was put into this song.

Hold Dig Væk is the most sonorous song on the album, and once again explores doom metal territory before abruptly exploding into a punk/doom hybrid. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, and yet surprisingly manages to do so. It’s also another song which seems to have been built around several riffs, and works well in doing so. It makes no attempts to show off, and instead goes for a destructive rock force which picks you up and slams you against the wall, slowly at times and quick in others.

Canada is the final track of the album, and is the most experimental song on the album. Featuring lush guitar soundscapes and noises, Canada gives the listener a chance to breathe and to sit back and enjoy the ride. Vocals slowly enter a third of the way in through the song, followed by a wah guitar solo that genuinely wouldn’t sound out of place in a prog rock album. This, on top of the rest of the experimentation done during this song is the reason why Canada is probably my favourite track off the album. Frantic drums and thick fuzzy guitar near the end of the song show off the trademark Hjortene sound, before abruptly chilling out into a mellow groove, or at least as mellow as Hjortene get.

If you’ve not heard of these guys before, don’t worry. Just grab the album from the bands Bandcamp or other places, and enjoy the aural treats that are ahead of you. And if you’re unsure of some of the songs, why not explore the tracks below?
http://hjortene.bandcamp.com/track/180000-km-t-feat-valient-himself
http://hjortene.bandcamp.com/track/pounding-hammer
http://hjortene.bandcamp.com/track/canada-feat-lorenzo-woodrose

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