Kvelertak - NattesferdOh, Kvelertak. Five years ago and hot on the heels of their 2010 self-titled debut, it seemed the Norwegian sextet were the subject of every third MetalSucks post, and their wild live shows were the stuff of legend. In a metal scene curdling from years of cvlter-than-thou extremity, the group’s insanely catchy combination of blistering black metal, hooky arena rock, and party-hard attitude not only appeased metalheads with a repressed desire to let loose and rock out, but also broke through to listeners who seldom dipped their toes in the insular metal blogosphere. With great songwriting and memorable riffs, the group’s rise to fame was well-deserved, and at the time they seemed poised to only keep growing.

Always one to sniff out the latest trend, I experienced Kvelertak firsthand during a New York Harbor concert cruise in 2011. In a drunken haze of broken ceiling panels, bloody noses, and sweaty Scandinavian bellyfat, I witnessed a boat get utterly trashed while pounding my fist to anthem after anthem of blackened punk n’ roll. In the aftermath, I lost my new Warbringer shirt but gained a wispy-eyed appreciation for the group – one that wasn’t stymied until 2013 Roadrunner Records debut Meir. The record was just as its translation suggested: ‘More.’ As in, ‘more of the same, but not quite as good.’ Coupled with a far less rowdy live performance I attended that same year, I was inclined to believe my Norwegian punk idols were another promising group that burned out too quickly.

Fortunately, third album Nattesferd (‘night traveler’) is a different beast. Rather than attempting to reclaim the punked-up aggression of the debut, Nattesferd sees the group dialing things back in favor of more relaxed, colorful hard rock. In fact, other than opener “’Dendrofil for Yggdrasil” – whose searing blasts and faintly cheery tremolos sound like the band’s last-ditch attempt to get re-listed on Metal-Archives – there’s little here that resembles black metal at all. ‘Sell outs!,’ you cry? Thing is, it works.

Rather than toning themselves down in a bid for commercialism, Kvelertak instead sound like they’ve made the shift out of sheer inspiration. Take first single “1985,” an afternoon joyride of mid-tempo beats, breezy leads, and Sunset Strip power chords culled from Van Halen’s playbook. It’s terrific, and while frontman Erlend Hjelvik maintains his signature throaty rasp throughout, that’s the only vestige of extremity in songs like “Odskapens Galakse,” whose steady beat is built off what sounds like a lost Sisters of Mercy guitar-line.

With three guitarists, it’s a shame solos aren’t more common, but the stylistic diversity more than makes up for it. Early highlight “Nattesferd” builds off a vintage bass intro and terrifically fuzzy Queens of the Stone Age melodies before the airy clean vocals of the refrain, while “Bersekr” goes straight speed metal with its divebombing main riff and galloping rhythm. “Svartmesse” begins with a progression that sounds inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd before moving into a clean/harsh vocal pairing that hearkens back to the debut, while “Bronnesgard” punctuates its pounding measures with shouts of “hey!” and “whoo!” along with lively guitar trills.

Kvelertak - 2016

Some problems from Meir still remain – namely, the group sometimes plays ideas a bit beyond their ideal lifespan. Aforementioned “Yggdrasil,” “1985,” and “Odskapens” all feature extended instrumental outros that feel pointless, while “Nattesferd” probably didn’t need a full two-minute intro. Additionally, the eight minute behemoth “Heskebrann” and the Happy Meal-sized Electric Wizard riffs of closer “Nekrodamus” – while both good tracks – may have found better homes elsewhere in the track order, as ending the record with two relatively sluggish songs feels less like a victorious sprint across the finish line and more like Ron Jeremy waddling around with a loaf of bread shoved up his ass.

While Natteferd’s production is a bit flat, the mix is solid, and the vintage guitar tone and plump bass are a welcome fit for the record’s feel-good, summer cruising vibe. While not a perfect record and certainly not a complex one, it’s packed with great moments, and feels refreshingly comfortable and genuine. Ultimately, while trading the gut-busting viscera may have drawn the band further away from a ‘metal’ tag, it also may be just the deal Kvelertak needed to make to keep listeners – and themselves – fully engaged. Rock on, boys.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps Album Stream
Label: Roadrunner Records
Websites: facebook.com/Kvelertak | Kvelertak.com
Releases Worldwide: May 13th, 2016

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  • The Ichthyologist

    “… Ron Jeremy waddling around with a loaf of bread shoved up his ass.”

    Such lovely imagery. Thank you, sir.

  • Crabwalk

    Great review! I like the spontaneous vibe of this record. It sounds as if the guitarists just plugged into their amps and started jamming on the spot, preserving the grit and edginess of a live performance. It’s still very punk n’ roll in my book, although I agree that the black metal tinges are few and far between, and the 80s arena rock elements appear to be even more pronounced.

  • hubcapiv

    Oh “Nattesferd” needs a two-minute intro all right. Those are two of my favorite musical minutes of 2016.

    Apart from that I’m with you. I loved the debut but was disappointed enough by Meir that I figured Kvelertak was a one-and-done kind of band. But Nattesferd proved me wrong, and I am all the happier for it.

  • Oh, what a band will do to get re-listed in the Archives. It’s not pretty.

  • Alan Smithee

    “…less like a victorious sprint across the finish line and more like Ron Jeremy waddling around with a loaf of bread shoved up his ass.”

  • This is without a doubt going to be my summer driving record of 2016. Also, am I the only one who also like Meir? Evig Vandrar has easily one of my favorite riffs ever, though it totally gives the listener some blue balls with its abrupt ending.

    • I thought Meir was much better than the debut, which I thought was pretty overhyped…

      • I have just the opposite feeling about it. The debut had that killer punk vibe that got lost on Meir.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      I tried to like Meir a whole lot but it just didn’t click for some reason. It wasn’t bad or anything, but it just didn’t sound great to my ears.

    • Mark Z

      I thought Meir was more consistent record than the debut, in that it was consistently worse. ;)

      In all seriousness, I actually did find Meir to be less varied in quality from start to finish than the debut. The first 7 tracks of the debut (up through Sultans of Satan) are absolutely incredible, the final 4 are good but a little long-winded and less interesting. If they had thrown another song like “Mjod” or “Blodtorst” as the second to last track, it would have helped the record quite a bit. It’s still fantastic though.

    • Merijn Kooijman

      dududududu, peedadapadapweeewww padapweeewww

      I agree with you completely.

  • Shangsean

    I’ve had this for a couple of weeks and love it. I can’t fault the extended intros or outros at all – they’re great. I haven’t heard this many memorable riffs and melodies on an album in quite some time. I have to say that sluggish is not a term I would use to describe Heskebrann and that intro is one of the highlights of the album. I do agree on the final track not being the ideal finish, but Heskebrann would work perfectly as a substitute. With all the songs being memorable individually though, listening on random is not a problem. This will definately be in my top 10 of 2016.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Colour me impressed!
    I was loving every moment of the intro to Nattesferd. They played it well, the build into the song is perfect you could imagine it as theme to a pepped up Hawaii Five 0. When the song snaps in the vocals are bang on and it rockets along to the very timely and catchy instrumental outro. I immediately wanted to hear it again.
    In my book this is top shelf songwriting and production, the subtle and classy use of acoustic guitar and perfectly placed backing vocals. The guitar and bass sounds are like honey to my ears. I’d probably agree that it’s not really metal but who gives a fuck. It reminds me of the legendary Australian band Radio Birdman which is about as high a compliment I could pay any band.
    I can’t wait to crank the rest of the album!

    • hubcapiv

      Bless you, sir. Anyone who encourages people to listen to Radio Birdman is doing the lord’s work.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Nice review BTW

  • SegaGenitals

    Saw them open for Mastodon in Dallas in 2014. The set was unspectacular.

    • Bill Jones

      Couldn’t agree more! Mastodon was kind of lame. Fortunately they had good opening acts.

      • SegaGenitals

        I see what you did there.

  • Bill Jones

    Apparently the print in the CD booklet is too small: This reviewer couldn’t accurately read the song titles and sadly butchered several of them in his review. Good thing you don’t actually have to put letters in the correct order to call yourself a rock critic, yeah?

    • There’s constructive criticism and there’s being a dick. Guess which side of that divide you charged headfirst into?

      • Bill Jones

        Why don’t you “spell it out” for me?
        Har har har.

      • Bill Jones

        Ending your sentence with a preposition? Hey guys, found another “rock critic”!

        • One More Thing

          Suicide – commit to it.

    • El_Cuervo

      What’s the matter? 3.5/5 not good enough for little Billy?

      I refer you to the rating system at the top left of this page.

  • lennymccall

    We’re only half way thru 2016 but so far this is my record of the year.
    I’m a fanboy for them but was, like most disappointed with Meir. This one has brought me right back up to full erection.
    Yes that should be taken as a Turbonegro reference as they should always be mentioned when reviewing this band. I feel like Kverlertak is a natural extension of their sound. Weird that they don’t get compared more?

  • Antorus

    I hadn’t bothered to check these guys out due to it being yet another band with a cover by the Baroness guy. I am really enjoying this record though!

    • Name’s Dalton

      This album does not feature work by that Baroness guy, however.

      • Antorus

        After going through their backlog (and digging it too) I have to say I like this a bit more than their previous work. Must be the lack of Baroness art…

  • LordOfTheRunes

    Why does this intro remind me of Breadfan?

  • Blueberry Balls

    A great release. I was hot for this one, and not disappointed.

  • Flyingguillotine

    See, I love Meir. I love it even meir than the first one, and boy howdy do I love their debut. The sheer majesty of “Apenbaring” and “Tordenbrak” are crushing album bookends the likes of which I rarely hear these days. If I’m a little tired, a bit low, I throw on Kvelertak and all is right again.

  • jrichocean

    What kind of total dolt says nattesferd intro needs to be cut back? Turn that shit up, get behind a fockin wheel, and go fast… then tell us how you really feel.

  • Adjudant

    Where oh where have the solos gone?