Origin: Stavanger, Norway
Label: Indie Recordings
If there is a general accusation I would level against metal, it’s that a lot of bands don’t seem to be having much fun with it. It can be easy to look at the slavish devotion of a group of performers to whatever sub-subgenre they represent and think, “guys, why are you taking this so seriously?” That’s why Kvelertak feels to me like such a breath of fresh air. They seem devoted to having a really good time.
“Ulvetid” opens the album with squealing feedback and a group shout of the band’s name, followed by the screamed vocals and blast-beat drumming typical in black metal and its Scandinavian ilk. Then about 45 seconds in you realize, “woah, this actually rocks.” Then you catch the rhythm guitar make a nod towards Led Zeppelin during the guitar solo, and realize there must be a whole contingent of metal-heads out there calling foul.
But for those of us who like to dip our toes in metal, and prefer that it not take itself too seriously all the time, Kvelertak are a blast. “Mjød” switches between a slinky groove (complete with single-note piano, à la “I Wanna Be Your Dog”) and pummeling hardcore with ease. “Fossegrim” brings in a great little organ ditty interlude to break up the chug, and “Blodtørst” adds a tight acoustic guitar about halfway in, just before ramping up the energy threefold and bringing in more ringing piano. Even if you don’t know a single word of Norwegian, “Sultans of Satan” will make you want to sing along with its jaunty chorus.
Kvelertak sounds rich and full, even at its harshest. The band seems to pick and choose the best elements of black metal, hard rock, and classic rock to create a wonderfully affirmative mix. Kurt Ballou (guitarist of Converge, and production wizard at GodCity Studio in Salem, MA) helmed the production on this record, and that’s a name that will appear a lot if I keep this up. At any rate, it’s a great album. Full of energy without relying on the same old, same old full-speed charge of so many other metal efforts. There’s never a dull moment, plenty of variety, and it’s just simply fun.