What this all means is I get another chance to big up one of the surprise debut albums of last year. I could start by using this space to remind you of all the other newbies you may have missed around the same time; folks like England’s Lower Than Atlantis or Sweden’s No Hawaii or even the stunning shot in the arm that Quebec’s Barn Burner presented us with, but that would be remiss of me.
This is all about six different blokes, with six different music tastes, making incredibly bruising punk and hardcore music, riddled with rock n’ roll affectations, that will have you name-checking straight-up noisy bastards like Black Flag and Refused one minute, Fu Manchu and Bison B.C. the next, before you move on to, say, Kylesa and Coliseum, then Purified In Blood and Enslaved. To be honest the list of bands that this lot remind me of, in turns, is endless.
One thing is for sure – the album benefits from being dialed up until you can feel the bass rattling your brain (at which point the old dude downstairs will start using his broom-handle to redecorate his ceiling). Don’t stop, keep turning it up until the drums start to make your teeth chatter (the dogs in the neighborhood should now be barking in unison). Basically you want it up where the scorched vocals of Erlend Hjelvik start to peel the wallpaper from the walls and the cops start hammering down your door. If you can hear it cave-in as the battering ram connects, it ain’t loud enough.
Put simply, Kvelertak, an apt Norwegian word meaning stranglehold, has thick meaty grooves, is ripped through with buzzing power chords and is bathed in an all-encompassing, scathing screamo. Within the melee, you’ll catch hints of something else, maybe stoner or black metal (“Liktorn”, I’m looking at you) and this leads to the album stretching out, getting steadily more epic as it progresses. The lyrics, all in their native language, generally explore the subjects of Norse folklore, tradition and mythology that are specifically related, playfully, back to members of the band. Hell, you won’t understand them anyway and you won’t care a jot. When they sing about the time when Bjarte forgot to pick Erlend up from band practice, you’ll be kicking seven shades of shit out of your own bedroom wall.
As they did with their early demos, they’ve again rounded up a few friends to help out, dragging in guest appearances from Andreas Tylden (JR Ewing), Hoest (Taake) and Ryan McKenney (Trap Them). You’ll get to hear Nattefrost (Carpathian Forest) spitting blackened venom into “Fossegrim” as the band behind him spew out a volley of rock n’ roll, all bent up with wickedly catchy, riffed licks. You’ll marvel as Ivar Nikolaisen (Silver) roars bloody murder at “Blodtørst” and listen in stunned silence as the band proceed to pound him into submission with a bass-driven force that magically splits open to reveal some warping, acoustic stringwork that tips its stained hat at The Who. And yet they are so much more. “Sultans Of Satan” is just one example – it’s a harum-scarum gang-chanted plod that flowers into a transparently melodic and fantastically addictive chorus, yet has a whole, brazenly psychedelic, nakedly old-school, cavalcade of material to follow that fleshes it out to bursting point.
This is live music bottled – I’d swear you can actually smell the smoke pouring from the cabs. You get this sense that every single band member is bouncing off the walls, and each other, as they play. It may be that bit too raw or too base for some but, for those with a strong constitution, you’ll be aping the band’s energy levels and, by the end of the relatively-reserved nod-a-thon that is final track “Utrydd Dei Svake”, you’ll be staring in awe at Baroness’ John Dyer Baizley’s superb artwork, frantically flipping it over in a fruitless search for lyrics to join in with, and panting and sweating just as vehemently. And that won’t even be the end; both a blessing and a curse – value for money generally adds on a pair of love-handles. All the same, this new release features a heap of, even-more unhinged and somewhat swarthier, BBC session and demo versions of the tracks within. Oh boy, are you in for a treat, America.
Also online with samples @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/kvelertak-kvelertak