Bold, brutal, beautiful. And a bit dumb – yes, that too. Kvelertak’s second album is one of those rare releases: an album to settle any metal subgenre squabbles and unite the pedants. There at the centre of the circles on the musical Venn diagram marked classic rock, power metal, black metal, party punk and hardcore, this six-piece sit slopping mead from their Viking drinking horns with their rigid middle digits raised.
Norse marauders create a crossover classic
Few bands could rightfully lay claim to quite comfortably straddling the formidable divide between the duelling guitar interplay of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy and the gymnastic, hardcore dynamism of Refused and Converge (whose guitarist Kurt Ballou produces) and deliver it with the same turbocharged energy of Rocket From The Crypt or Turbonegro. Yet Kvelertak pull it off with aplomb.
Leading the charge in the NWOSM – it’s the New(er) Wave Of Scandinavian Metal, obviously – on Meir the sextet out do themselves by sounding more Kvelertak-ish than ever. Here they take all the factors that made their 2010 debut so stunning and crank them up until the dial shatters. Kvelertak have upped the ante, broken the bar and burnt the envelope. Restraint? Subtlety? Kvelertak shit ’em. Here a is band who don’t give a fuck.
Exhibit A: Snilepisk, with its dark metal dynamics, Spaghetti Western–style atmospherics and utterly frantic final 30 seconds. Or the sound of classic metal being dragged through the fetid black metal morass that is album opener Åpenbaring. Once again Norse and Viking mythology appears to provide lyrical inspiration, though with song explanations such as “A feather clad man breaks into your skull. He has such sights to show you!” (for Åpenbaring, in the band’s own track-by-track notes) you suspect Kvelertak have little in common with Varg Vikernes. They have a sense of humour for starters. They enjoy life. And they are unafraid to layer on the acoustic guitars too.
Elsewhere, Kvelertak’s triple guitar attack creates a thrillingly deft and often impenetrable wall of noise, while singer Erlend Hjelvik’s howling yawp and mighty roar is offset by ridiculously melodic flourishes that ensnare like a hook in the lip of a hundred pound Catfish. Bruane Brenn takes the metaphorical corpsepaint to garage punk and in doing so creates a mighty Frankenstein’s monster of a party metal banger; a big mad rock tranny whose stitching is strong enough to hold this odd-limbed beast all together. Then there’s Tordenbrak, a nine-minute epic that climaxes in a Who-style explosion of mic-swinging, crotch-thrusting drama. It’s Pete Townshend meets Mayhem – and that surely is a sentence that has not been written before.
It’s early days for a band to already be staking their claim as creators of one of the albums of the year, but Meir is 50 shades of brutal fun, Kvelertak a continued breath of fresh air. Rarely does metal swing with such joyous abandon, but this should rightfully have any listener punching holes in the ceiling.