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Hank von Helvete, former Turbonegro frontman, dead at 49

Hank von Helvete
(Image credit: Mick Hutson / Getty Images)

Hank Von Helvete, the former frontman of Norwegian death-punks Turbonegro, has died aged 49. 

The family of the larger-than-life singer, real name Hans-Erik Dyvik Husby, confirmed his passing on November 19 to the Norwegian newspaper Tvedestrandsposten

Born on June 15, 1972, the singer joined Turbonegro in 1993, ahead of the release of their second album, Never Is Forever (1994). Having adopted a new denim-and-’taches image, the band truly hit their stride with album three, Ass Cobra, which featured fan favourites Denim Demon (later covered by Therapy?) and I Got Erection (later covered by Satyricon).

As the word-of-mouth buzz on the band grew louder, amplified by the passionate support of their Turbojugend fan club, the Norwegians came close to crashing mainstream rock circles with 1998’s Apocalypse Dudes, which included shoutalong rock club anthems Don’t Say Motherfucker, Motherfucker, Rendezvous With Anus and Rock Against Ass. This would prove to be the highpoint of the initial von Helvete-era, as the singer’s escalating heroin dependency and mental health issues made touring an increasingly fraught proposition: according to bassist Happy Tom (Thomas Seltzer), the band broke up in the waiting room of a psychiatric emergency ward in Milan, Italy.

In 2003, however, Turbonegro returned to great acclaim with the Scandinavian Leather album - placed at number 83 in Metal Hammer’s 100 Greatest Metal Albums of the 21st Century list - and consolidated their burgeoning cult status with 2005’s Party Animals, which featured cameos from former Black Flag frontman Keith Morris and ex-Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Nick Oliveri. 

The Norwegians released one further album with von Helvete, 2007’s Retox, before the singer opted to launch a solo career. The Norwegian media broke the news that the singer had left the band in July 2010: Turbonegro  would return with former Fabric/Dukes Of Nothing frontman Tony Sylvester as their new vocalist. 

In 2011, von Helvete returned with a new group, Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult, and the album I Declare: Treason. As Hank Von Hell, his first solo album, Egomania, emerged in 2018, followed up by Dead in 2020.

The singer’s cause of death has not yet been made public.

Turbonegro have paid tribute to their former frontman on social media, writing: 

"It is with immense sadness we received the tragic news that Hans-Erik 'Hertis' Dyvik Husby has passed away.

"We are thankful for the times, the moments and the magic we shared with Hans-Erik in Turbonegro during the years 1993-2009.

"As a charismatic frontman who equally channeled humor and vulnerability, Hans-Erik was crucial for the band’s appeal. He was a warm and big hearted human, a spiritually and intellectually seeking person who loved having a conversation with anyone.

"We are proud of what we created together as rock brothers in Turbonegro — the music, the characters, our whole universe.

"Hank von Helvete remains an iconic figure in the history of Norwegian rock and popular culture, and also made a mark as a profile in the international rock 'n' roll community.

"Actor, romantic and entertainer — through his life Hank left no doubt that he was a man for the stage, loving the spotlight and the room's attention.

"Our thoughts and hearts go to his family.

"Rest In Peace".