Hällas, Freeways, and Crossed Hearts serve up spacey, spectacular heavy metal
Written by Scott Belzer | November 2nd, 2023
Have you ever run through a field after getting stoned with your best mates? Gazed at the stars after a long day filled with adventure, your heart filled with awe? Camped next to a pristine waterfall in the mountains as part of a peaceful retreat?
No? Well, you should listen to Swedish prog rock band Hällas, as it’s sure to provide a similar trip.
Formed in 2011, the Swedish quintet brings a flavor of ‘70s-flavored rock’n’roll reminiscent of late-‘60s-early-‘70s psychedelic heavy metal, progressive rock and hard rock. Their songs are epic, medieval poetry accompanied by some of the catchiest, grooviest prog rock your ears have ever heard, with vocalist Tommy Alexandersson (Swedes need the extra ‘S,’ you see) calling to mind such hard rock heavy(metal)weights as Terry Reid, Love’s Bryan MacClean or Yes’s Jon Davison. That man’s voice is beautiful— earthy, warm, and well-trained—with a range that spans from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
Hällas’s sound is equally enticing. It’s more Aphrodite’s Child than Three Dog Night. Guitarists Rickard Swahn and Marcus Petersson accompany Alexandersson’s silky sound with smooth melodies that don’t overpower or overindulge, except to occasionally transcend into the stars. Nicklas Malmqvist adds to the vibe with some organ/synthesizer, while drummer Kasper Eriksson and Alexandersson’s bass thrum along. As Hällas unfurls their tales of knighthood and glory, each band member showcases another, stepping forward or backward to serve the song’s purpose. There’s a subtlety to Hällas’s sound; the band seems aware of how much to reveal and showcases an experienced collective ear that has to be the result of outstanding chemistry and plenty of deep dives at the record store.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard Hällas’s single “Star Rider” while hanging out with your favorite circle or on any streaming service’s “New Rock,” station. Hällas’s latest release, 2022’s Isle of Wisdom, shows signs that the band has no intention of slowing down (unless it’s for vibes, man) and growing toward an even more cohesive, album-centric sound instead of track-by-track glory.
Freeways offers that same vintage hard rock sound—but leans more toward late-70’s early-’80s. Think more Thin Lizzy, less Jethro Tull. More trucker hat, less hippy robe. The same heavy rock sensibilities are there—smooth, soaring vocals, a driving guitar, thrumming rhythms to move things along—but bring a different product and overall energy to the table. Freeways, as their name might suggest, are all about driving forward. Each song builds and builds with a consistent rhythm, only pit-stopping for an occasional flourish (the true musical equivalent of a Slim Jim). Much like Hällas, Freeways knows it’s all about balancing vibes—do too much in one area, and you spoil the mood.
Atlanta’s own heavy metal heroes, Crossed Hearts, will be joining the fray. The band’s debut LP, 2023’s Forced Perspective, provides a bombastic blend of traditional heavy metal that’s tongue-in-cheek, straightforward and ultimately kick ass. Where Hällas will make you want to take a trip to the next dimension and Freeways will make you want to drive a ’75 Buick straight into the desert, Crossed Hearts will make you want to slap on a leather jacket, wrap a chain around your hand, and find the nearest alley to brawl in.