Return of the Hank
When Mr and Mrs von Hell had their little baby Hank, I doubt they had any idea of the future he would lead. You could say it has been a rollercoaster of a ride involving drug addiction and rock ‘n’ roll, where he is mostly famed for being the frontman of Norwegian eccentrics Turbonegro from 1993-2010.
He says he has dealt with his drug addiction and in November 2018 released his first completely solo effort, Egomania, via the Headbangr label.
During his time in Turbonegro, the band had a hard, almost punk-like, edge and liked nothing better than writing irreverend, innuendo-laden songs such as “Stroke the Shaft” (not much innuendo to be fair) and “Hell Toupee”. This time, Hank von Hell has smoothed things out musically but there’s still venom in his voice and cunning in his lyrics.
Hank’s voice is unmistakable and the rock ‘n’ roll bombast still remains from his time in Turbonegro. He is more than ably supported by the superbly named Major Sam on rhythm guitar, Jean Genus on bass and Dead Said Fred on drums, but the major contributor along with Hank is Cat Casino on lead guitar. Casino’s licks and solos are a joy to behold and right there, in your face, straight from the off on the opening title track and onward.
Whilst all the tracks may not be autobiographical you do feel a lot refer to his battles with drug addiction and maybe “Egomania” details his decision to return to rock ‘n’ roll following his promise never to do so. A rollicking start, this track has pace and power which is felt throughout the album.
A great riff introduces “Pretty Decent Exposure”, a track which comes very close to his Turbonegro days where the words are more snarled than sung. And the riffs which are constantly there behind the vocals are brilliantly pricking at your rock ‘n’ roll heart. If you don’t play air guitar to the solo too, you aren’t human.
“Blood” starts off like a Def Leppard Hysteria chant-athon. You know the thing, bare monotone rousing vocals interspersed with simple heavy riffing. One to get the crowd out of their minds I reckon.
Next cab off the rank is “Dirty Money” and it’s back to gut-punching power rock ‘n’ roll. He does like a belting riff to kick things off. The pace never drops and the solo once again is top notch.
The best-titled track on Egomania has to be “Bum to Bum”. I know it’s taking things to the lowest level but who cares? Check out his crazy comeback video below, with a guest appearance from Steve-O of Jackass.
“Never Again” slows things down in an Alice Cooper type way. A gentle rocker telling the tale of Hank von Hell and his trials and tribulations. I like it, even if it has no solo.
The much perkier “Bombwalk Chic” follows and while he may be accused of creating simplistic lyrics, (“fade into oblivion, with your favorite Bolivian”) he can also be accused of creating hooks to die for and songs which demand head nodding and toe-tapping. The background riffing appears once again to great effect too.
“Wild Boy Blues” is very middle of the road and formulaic but although it is not an outstanding track it still has its benefits such as the coasting riffs and meandering solo.
If you want autobiographical then the two finishers are where it’s at. “Too High” is fairly self-explanatory with giveaways such as “Slow rider, high as a kite, chasing dragons all through the night; space cadet, no I don’t lie, I wanna get high and I wanna die”. It sounds depressing but it’s a catchy tune.
“Adios (Where’s My Sombrero)” really exposes Hank von Hell; his past, his present, and his future. Although a lot of the song from the start is paced like a funeral march, it’s a track where Hank says goodbye to his past and is determined to be a changed man for a better future. A bit profound I suppose but there you go. The guitaring early on creates a melancholy atmosphere but for the last couple of minutes, it’s an uplifting track. There’s even space for some Axl-esque ‘rapping’, although I’m not sure what he was on about.
Overall I think Egomania is a great rock album. It’s got hooks, solos, and riffs all drawn together by Hank von Hell’s unique take on lyric writing. If he was in two minds about making a return to the rock scene, then with this album he has been totally vindicated.