HÄLLAS – The Hällas Saga - Live At Cirkus
November 6, 2023, 4 weeks ago
Coinciding with their second run of North American dates, the eclectic Swedes have issued their first live album, recorded April 10, 2022 (after several pandemic cancellations/rescheduling’s), a one-off show that celebrated (not only their post-Covid return to the stage) but the three disc arc completed by Conundrum, thus closing that chapter of Hällas. Sort of odd hearing the applause between each of the eight tracks, but it was a seated/sit-down venue, bringing added prestige to the performance. The stage raps, invariable in their native tongue, have been edited out, for global audiences, thus some of the tunes fade to silence, before the next one commences.
While the current string of gigs will not approximate this running order, in any way (as it completely ignores the most recent Isle Of Wisdom CD), it's essentially a band approved primer on their early material. New fans can investigate past EPs, singles and the first two albums, in one fell swoop. Shame the visual aspect is missing, as the eye make-up and capes, as well as frontman/bassist Tommy Alexandersson's asymmetric presence truly adds to the "Unique" vibe. This set is a little more ethereal and keyboard oriented prog than the latest album. Still, it's great to hear live renditions of older cuts that might never get an airing overseas.
Actually, there's an explosion of applause to open the disc, no fanfare/intro, as the band kicks directly into "Repentance". Like most of their songs, there's initial lyrics, in Alexandersson's almost spoken word delivery, followed by an expansive instrumental section. Shame the folks had to stay seated, as the lively music makes one want to move: jump, sway, pogo, anything but remain motionless. Locking into their patented slow-to-mid-paced framework, "The Golden City Of Semyra" has an almost regal quality. A third of the way through, dominate keyboards pump new life into things. Changes in dynamics, often radical (from hushed voices to bombastic organ fanfares), are a key component of the Hällas sound.
It's not that far a drive from "Beyond Night And Day" to the retro ‘80s synthwave craze. Segueing into "Strider" (the opening strains recalling Alannah Myles "Black Velvet"), a synth undercurrent rests beneath Tommy's up front vocals. Lively "Astral Seer" is filled with bouncy keyboard runs. Speaking of a lilt in your step, the infectious "Carry On" resides somewhere between ABBA and German schlager music, but with an earworm that makes it damn near irresistible. Clap along, dance, sing, impossible to sit still, after just one play-through.
If there's one track that encompasses what Hällas, circa 2023, are about, it would be "Star Rider", with a telltale melody that separates these Swedes from virtually everyone else in the (hard) rock community, beyond the vintage guitar tones and swirl of Moog/’70s keyboards. Over all too quickly, the night ends with their signature tune, with keys following the guitars (or is vice versa?). Physical product comes with iron on transfer & artwork poster.
If you get the chance catch one of the upcoming shows. Certainly nothing really like it on these shores!