Norway’s Kvelertak created quite a storm when they released their debut back in 2010, and not just sonically. They were feted by the press for their refreshing and startling combination of black metal and punk elements. And they were slated by those genres purists for exactly the same reasons. I even read fans giving Kvelertak grief over using artwork by John Dyer Baizley, (of Baroness fame), like it was devaluing his work by doing covers for other artists! Still the Norwegian press loved them, showering them with awards and decreeing them the best thing to come out of Norway since Morten Harket‘s quiff. As a consequence of all this hoopla, when I finally got to hear the band I was a bit underwhelmed. Is this what all the fuss is about I thought?
In a conscious move to try and judge “Meir”, (“More”, imaginatively) on it’s own merits, I have deliberately not gone back to their debut, or read any press or reviews regarding it. Can I just review the music? Well I can, but that may not necessarily work in the bands favour. Let’s see…
‘Apenbaring’ is slow-building intro track with huge multi-tracked guitars, eventually joined by Erland Hjelvik‘s scratchy, black metal screams. It’s atmospheric, and a good introduction to the bands sound, but not particularly strong as a stand alone song. My first impressions, and they are lasting ones, are that Kvelertak really aren’t as original as they’ve been made out to be. A very sizable amount of “Meir” sounds strikingly like “The Chemistry of Common Life” by Fucked Up.
The employment of three guitarists, allied to the huge wall of sound created by producer Kurt Ballou (Converge) create exactly the same musical landscape as the Canadian hardcore experimentalists. It is really only in the more obviously black metal moments, like the tremelo picking parts of ‘Trepan’ that Kvelertak prove that they have their own ingredients to bring to the table. To be fair ‘Trepan’ then turns into a classic Iron Maiden romp, which you don’t see coming! In fact a large part of the fun listening to this album is guessing where the band are going to turn to next amongst the metal genres, to surprise and excite your ears.
The current single ‘Bruane Brenn’ is a massive banger of melodic, hardcore heaven, but if I was in Gallows I’d be shaking my head at Kverlertak‘s apparent bloody cheek at totally ripping off ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ for the chorus. ‘Evig Vandrar’ repeats the trick of marrying extremity to a winning melody, but it’s perhaps at this point that you do begin to wish that the band sang in English. You so want to pump your fists in the air and shout along to these tunes, but you’re just left sort of mumbling phonetically to yourself.
‘Snilepisk’ is more death-punk with a fantastic eastern-tinged instrumental passage which again calls to mind Iron Maiden, circa “Powerslave”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this a FUN album to listen to. It’s like a celebration of the past 40 years of metal! Then to ‘Manelyst’, which finds Kvelertak ticking off the thrash metal box from their list with a huge Metallica-esque guitar solo, heralded by a very thrash shout of “Go!”.
For reasons only known to the band the album is now taken up by much longer epic-feeling tracks. Personally, I’d have spaced them out across the album as it makes the whole thing feel a bit pear-shaped. It just doesn’t sit right with me, conceptually.
There is so much going on these last four tracks that I don’t feel I can do them justice, but pick of the bunch is ‘Nekrokosmos’ which contains within it’s 6 minutes and forty seconds nods to Refused and post metal, as well as the expected black metal and Iron Maiden tributes. ‘Undertro’, ‘Tordenbrak’ and ‘Kverlertak’ mainly steer away from the darker side and incredibly call to mind Motley Crue, Fucked Up (mainly the uplifting ‘Tordenbrak’), 70’s blues rock, Turbonegro and Lynyrd Skynyrd. None of it ever sounds out of place. How? I don’t know.
The second coming? No. Kvelertak are not messiahs, but they are very talented boys. Did I mention how much fun this album is? I did? Okay, I’ll shut up then.