America was very well represented by an intensive opening set from Southern California’s own Helsott. Presenting their own inspired brand of Pagan folk metal, Helsott set the imagination in flight within many of the early arrivals, resulting in some rather rabid mosh pit action. Helsott was genuinely excited to be playing in their hometown, supporting some of the best acts the genre has ever seen. Eric Dow made for a compelling front man, presenting the lyrics with a vibrant magnetism that grabbed the listener by the throat. The tremendous standout in the band is Steph Robinson whose haunting keyboard work and operatic vocals are wondrous to behold. Along with American thrash and death metal elements, Helsott unleashed an absolutely staggering presentation, creative and ambitious in scope – clearly showing that one can find musical intrigue and mysticism even here within the City Of Angels. There is little doubt that Helsott garnered a good deal of new fans at this year’s edition of Paganfest America!
-Kenneth Morton (High Wire Daze)
It’s safe to say that Helsott held our nation high up at the viking fest, showing that we Americans can also hear the call of the pagan gods. They moved the crowd more than expected, of course as only a few knew of them, which attest that they definetly left with new fans. Never the less they did not hesitate to demonstrate their gratitude towards the fans, promoters and others in the bill of supporting them during this tour. During the last songs of their set, the Norwegian band of Trolls, Trollfest felt the need to invade the stage, cheerfully running around, throwing paper around, and just plainly having fun with Helsott as they concluded their set, which of course was hilarious and fun to watch.
-Kassandra Carmona (Upstate Metal)
First off is a band called HELSOTT, the opening band, they actually brought a lot of people out to the floor, this isn’t seen often in Vancouver. Pagan from the USA you say, oh yeah, American style of course. It is more or less combined with some thrash death and a hint of pagan, a really unique combination. Great energy from the guys, and I could tell the people watching enjoyed immensely, and we all know that opening bands don’t get their credit due sometimes, so I will say that the people that waited until the last couple of bands to perform, missed out on seeing what I would call the American Pagan warriors.
-Metal Mom (Metal Titans)
Helsott are by far the newest band of the night, having formed only three years ago and with – thus far – only an EP to their credit. Paganfest was also their first tour and it was clear that they’d had an excellent experience.
Living up to their self-described “very melodic and very brutal” promo, they were a great start to the set. Keyboardist and backing vocalist Steph Robinson has a particularly impressive set of operatic pipes, which she used to great effect to bring a thunderous conclusion to one of their songs.
-Eric B. Hanson (About.com)
“From among the local openers that played, the one worth mentioning is pagan metal quintet Helsott. They were hugely impressive in all aspects, specially frontman Eric Dow’s voice and on-stage mannerisms which closely resembled those of Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth. Keyboard player Cassie Morris added a lot of depth to their music with not only her keyboard sound but also her vocals. I feel that this female element gives them a whole another dimension and as a result of it, their overall musical style opens doors for them to fit on the bill with a wide variety of bands ranging from Epica to Rotting Christ. They changed up their set to suit the thrash crowd tonight and removed the softer, ballad-type songs from it, which I thought was a good decision because they were getting a great response from this small but appreciative crowd. Overall, I think Helsott are one of the most impressive local bands out there and all of you should check them out as soon as you get a chance to do so”.
-Andrew Bansal (Metal Assault)
HELSOTT is a pagan metal band out of the deep woods of California looking to create their own footprints in the already trampled mud of the folk/Viking metal scene. My first entry into their interpretation of the style was the 2013 edition of the Paganfest four and was met with a couple nods of approval on my end. Not a bad way to start the show off, truly. But like (possibly) many other folks out there I hadn’t heard of them up to that point but was curious to see how they stand as a new set of feet entering the musical wading pool before them/us. First impression was good enough for me to keep my attention focused throughout their set and stoked to pick up some recorded works of theirs.
So let’s see if “Folkvangr” is able to translate just as well on a CD format…
On a musical level, HELSOTT has the bouncy rhythms of the more symphonic, forest-dwelling moments of ENSIFERUM mixed with the crushing melodeath arrangements of AMON AMARTH. The material runs the extremes of crushing, chaotic metal littered with raging riffs and insidious growling, and softer, more peaceful moments of acoustic guitars, gentle synths and female singing. Such a combination is seemingly unoriginal on the outside, but it’s the way it’s all thrown together by these Californian pagans that makes this mini-CD work. The energy of the performance is very noticeable, a sort of honesty present that prevents it from being seen as nothing more than “yet another Viking/folk metal entry” as riffs and keyboard arrangements just rush on by the listener, galloping like war horses into the heart of battle. The transparency definitely helps push these guys forward through the crowd of sword-and-axe-wielding musical heathens; no need to BS here and force an image when the music should be the one thing speaking the loudest of all the voices a group has. Right? Right. Moving on. Though, one of the biggest issues I’d have to take umbrage with is the rather sterile production approach that takes a lot of the energy out of the otherwise frantic musical pace. Such a recording means renders the guitars somewhat guileless and flat and the drums pitter-pattery and sounding more like someone smacking cardboard boxes versus sticks upon pious flesh (as it SHOULD be, by the gods!). But it could have been worse, though; the clear conciseness of the material is still readily and easily heard, and the tightness of the group helps prevent it from being a cluttered mess. So let’s just call a spade a spade here and understand that the virtues outnumber the vices, even if only by a little.
So at the end of the day, “Folkvangr” is a good entry for those weekend Vikings to jam out en route to the battlefield. Things could really be improved, but as it stands I can see these guys making quite the name for themselves in the folk/pagan metal world. I’ll definitely be there to check it out if/when it does.
-Captain Rattlehead (The Offering)
Few other genres of music have the ability to make me swing a pint of beer back and forth like folk metal. The energy, tone, melodies, and lyrics do nothing but put me in a happy place that’s hard to put into words. I’m always pleased to find new folk metal bands, and to find one here in the United States is even better. Helsótt is a metal band out of California. They call themselves a blend of American thrash/death metal and pagan metal, and I’d say they’re pretty spot on. They formed in 2010, and have released a three-track E.P “Fólkvangr” which is what I received in the mail from the band, and it is nothing short of impressive music, I just wish I had more of it to listen to!
“Fólkvangr”, the title track, opens the EP up with a solid high energy folk metal track. They have managed to blend very different elements of thrash, death metal, and folk metal into a diverse yet solid metal tune. The beginning riff sets the mood quite well with an enjoyable swing, but the song quickly escalates into harsh vocals with perfectly articulated keyboard elements, hard-hitting drums, and a prominent bass line. Kneel before the Goddess Freya! What a killer tune.
Continuing on, “Vandals Divide” creeps in slowly with a beautiful intro, complete with soothing female vocals and acoustic guitar, and then snaps into the sound the band has become known for. High energy fucking metal. This song is a slower paced song than the other two but still manages to hit just as hard. Then comes “Honor Thy Valkyrie” and immediately I know I am in love with this band. Metal and Valkyries – it seems they were made for each other. This song is the fastest and heaviest song on the album and brings in new vocal elements. The majority of the album uses guttural vocal style, but this track offers up a higher pitched harsh scream and male singing. By far, this is my favorite track on the album. Not only does it nail my interests in lyrical content, but there are so many different features in this song. It starts slow, then speeds up and hits you hard, then slows back down while utilizing all four of the members’ vocal styles so seamlessly. The female vocals on this E.P are provided by the keyboard player, Steph, and are quite the contrast to the vocals on the rest of the album, but are very beautiful nonetheless.
All around this is a killer release, and highly recommended for fans of the folk/pagan metal genre, and even you thrashers and death metallers out there. They have some serious potential and I personally can’t wait until I can get my hands on more from this band. Each of the members has a great amount of skill; there is no doubt about it. The guitar riffs and solos are melodic and fast, the bass and drums provide a great heartbeat to the music, the keys add such a nice polished element to such raw music, and the harsh vocals you can really feel in your core. To sum things up, please check the album out and support the band!
-Mattie Jensen (Metal Wani)
The first band up was Helsott, a band straight out of California. I unfortunately missed most of their set, but what I did hear was pretty great. They’re definitely a band worth checking out.
-Tyler Crooks (Metal Assault)
I was really looking forward to seeing Helsott, a folk metal band from California (yes, I was spreading lies when I mistakenly said they were from Texas). Their music has a heavy (ha,ha) thrash and death metal influence, and the songs I listened to ahead of time sounded full of intense, heavy energy. I thought it would be great to mosh to them, but I can’t remember if I actually did (some social things were stressing me out and made it hard to pay attention at times during the show). I really enjoyed their set, though; their guitars were great. The vocals were too low, so I couldn’t make them out most of the time (except the female vocals, provided by the keyboardist, which were a nice touch), but the guitars were amazing. I think at some point they even sounded a bit like hurdy gurdies, although that could just have been my imagination/being too obsessed with Eluveitie.
-Tal (In My Winter Castle)
“Fólkvangr is the bands first recording and is a self released EP containing three tracks of powerful and melodic folk and death metal somewhere in between deathly Swedes Amon Amarth and bombastic Finns Ensiferum. EP opener and title track bursts in with a pompous folk metal style, including melodies from keys and guitars. Vocals are a mixture of low grunts and black screams along with sung chants which owe a lot to viking era Bathory only a bit more jovial perhaps. For a self release and debut recording the sound production and sound quality is not too shabby, especially given the amount going on with the guitars, keys and vocals.”
-John Doe (Destructive Metal)
“Next up was Helsott, who received a very warm and enthusiastic reception from the crowd. Helsott shirts were a common sight in the audience, and a few folks on the floor offered an admirable pit throughout the set. Helsott’s viking themed death metal was channeled through the voice of Eric Dow, who proved to be an extremely charismatic presence. It was also nice to see the band offering a unique setlist for this show, including one track that supposedly hadn’t been played in two years and the second part to “Vandals Divide”. Though having backing tracks play over the P.A. seemed a bit unnecessary, Helsott’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious, and the band’s viking metal was again a fantastic fit for the bill this night”.
-Avinash Mittur (Metal Assault)