Kvelertak are six dudes making debauched, raucous, filthy metallic rock â€˜n roll, that staggers between the harsher side of black metal, to sludge, to hardcore punk, filtered through a Thin Lizzy spectrum of sleazy 70s rock. They also have 3 guitarists for total awesome overkill in the riffage stakes, meaning their sound is huge and a lot of fun.
Nearly all the songs on this self-titled debut are about Viking folklore or Norse mythology meaning that tracks such as â€˜Mjodâ€™ (â€˜Meadâ€™) is the perfect sing-a-long of high-octane rock â€˜n roll debauchery to head-bang to whilst quaffing large amounts of alcohol, jumping on someoneâ€™s shoulders and stroking each others beards. The opening track (‘Ulvetid‘) is a complete spazz-rock eccentricity of Dillinger riffs and grindcore drum fills, with vocalist Erlend Hjelvik roaring his guts out, whilst the scything guitar attack weaves between dense barriers to a twisting spiral of demented riffs. You can certainly tell they were tour mates with Converge. Despite the scrape of the vocals, theyâ€™re still cleaner than Jacob Bannonâ€™s, yet at times seem fiercer and less screeching.
â€˜Fossegrimâ€™ is a clumsy, yet brilliant mix of trashy guitar wails and rollicking drum patterns than fall over each other in a mad race to begin, whilst vocalist Hjelvik stalks the track, spitting his vocals in short spiteful outbursts; whilst the bizarre organ break fills me with hilarious joy as do the strained backing vocal cries when the track kicks back into itâ€™s crushing assault.
â€˜Blodtorstâ€™ (â€˜Blood Thirstâ€™)wins the award for â€˜best song with a 30 second 1 note piano soloâ€™; something which raises the songs already ballsy coda from â€˜supreme rockingâ€™ to â€˜head spasm attackâ€™ fury. They even have time to fit in a bit of acoustic guitar strumming, which doesnâ€™t sound shit in the slightest; whilst the other 2 guitarists wail on their axes like they’re channelling a lost Black Sabbath riff. This build spirals in and out, rising to a suitable cacophony before launching into the tracks final verse on the back of Hjelvikâ€™s vicious echoing roar and a truly fantastic bit of soloing, which must have every listener reaching for the imaginary axe; brutally tight stoner-hardcore punk.
What makes â€˜Sultans of Satanâ€™ so ridiculous is the immediate hammer-to-the-face opening that then breaks with a harmonised chorus, which has this powerful warmth to it, whilst the drumming switches from a relentless pounding, to an almost dance-punk beat during the sudden time change. Itâ€™s the closest thing to a â€˜popâ€™ track Kvelertak will ever write, yet itâ€™s still sounds so heavy and so charged with these layers and I mean LAYERS of wonderful riffage. At the 2:20 mark, the guitars start to SING like dolphins. Then thereâ€™s some cowbell. Then it hits classic rock â€“ then chugging hardcore, fist in the air chanting and even a â€œHUH!â€ before diving back into that harmonious hug of a chorus.
Thereâ€™s a touch of Motorhead in â€˜Nekroskopâ€™ â€“ particularly the way the guitars wail with whisky-soaked fire and the sense that the track is sneering down its nose at you through its gutter-like filth barrage. â€˜Offernattâ€™ begins with shrieking nu-metal guitar twangs and throat-shredding roar, before slotting brutally into some churning, spiked metallic rock complete with a filthy, 70s-rock solo for good measure â€“ think Boston playing metal. There isnâ€™t one moment in this record where the guitar work isnâ€™t fucking awesome â€“ â€˜SjÃ¸hyenar (Havets Herrer)â€™ for example; itâ€™s absolutely fantastic; they howl, like wolves â€“ no, like owls â€“ owls hooting into a Fender that has been thrown through an amp.
â€˜Liktornâ€™ takes a different approach to start with; beginning as an immediate punch to the face of double-bass drum rattling, accompanied by vocalist Hjelvik screaming like an owl has latched on to his scrotum â€“ it all goes pretty black metal to be honest. Melody is binned for pure scathing, â€œscreaming-in-your-face-terror.â€ It then mellows out â€“ well, as mellow as Kvelertak can go â€“ so still furious; still grimy, still totally badass rocking with some nice harmonised gang vocals.
Itâ€™s difficult to describe just how good this record is, so Iâ€™m just going to end by saying look at the cover art â€“ itâ€™s got a fucking giant owl with tentacles coming out of its body, wrapped around saucy wood nymphs. Why havenâ€™t you bought this yet? An outstanding debut album by the best band Iâ€™ve heard all year.
By Ross Macdonald