Monday, April 8, 2013

Kvelertak Turns It Up More For Meir

Not everyone stateside gets excited when a band's native language isn't English. But then, every once in a while, there comes along a band convincing enough that it just doesn't matter. Thankfully, Kvelertak is one of them.

The band's blend of rock, hardcore punk, and black metal influences is so sharply defined that most enthusiasts agree that there is plenty of time to decipher the Norwegian vocals. It doesn't even matter if their sophomore album, Meir, which means more, is precisely that. It's more of the same — the idiosyncratic sound that earned them two Spellemann Awards for their eponymous debut.

Meir is more melodic, with hints of experimentation. 

It might almost seem like a shame that there isn't more experimentation to distinguish Meir from their self-titled debut. But it's also good that they expanded what seems to work for them — riffs, hooks, anthems, and an attitude that the band sometimes calls "necro n' roll."

They make most of it by taking straightforward power chords and mashing them up against the hardcore vocals of Erlend Hjelvik. Even the opener, Apenbaring, a melodic riff-driven rocker about Vikings, sets the tone. It also gives you a taste of why this band from Stavanger, Norway, needs six members — Vidar Landa (guitar), Bjarte Lund Rolland (guitar), Maciek Ofstad (guitar), Marvin Nygaard (bass), and Kjetil Gjermundrød (drums) joining Hjelvik.

The buildup in the song is potent, perfectly alluding to the album that follows. In fact, if there is any criticism to be given, it's likely confined to how short the song feels. You really are left with wanting more, maybe even more than the first single release off the album.

That song, Bruane Brenn, is more straightforward, harkening not back to the Vikings as much as AC/DC. Bruane Brenn, by the way, means"the bridges are burning."

Most notably, besides the younger stand-ins seen in the music video, is the lighter sing-along chorus. For a few seconds, Kvelertak moves toward the pop side of rock in between a celebratory rock stomp of near jubilation as bridges burn. Somehow the light and dark of it work, with tight rhythms and transitions.

Along with Apenbaring, Spring fra Livet and Trepan open the album before Bruane Brenn. Spring fra Livet is a relatively rock party-friendly track with the most emo lyrics on the entire album. The title, means run from life, with Hjelvik suggesting you got to know when to go home.

Trepan is notably darker, taken from the medieval surgical procedure of drilling holes in people's heads in order to relieve pressure. The practice is even more primal than that, dating back to prehistoric times. Where Kvelertak gets it right is that they mean it figuratively as much as literally, given the ability of metal to be a release as much as it can wind people up.

Other standouts off the album include the smooth and even bluesy hard rock hit Evig Vandrar, the chug  and conflict of Undertro, the infectious and tightly wound Tordernbark, and the closer Kvelertak. Although tamer than most tracks on the album, Kvelertak will help some people pronounce the band's name correctly, which is the same way it's spelt — Kuh-vell-er-tack.

Meir By Kvelertak Strikes A Thunderclap At 8.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Most people don't know it, but this band has been extremely patient in making their mark. Although their debut album came out in 2010, Kvelertak originally formed in 2007. Their break came in 2009 when they got a spot at the Roskilde Festival. It would take a little more time, but eventually they would break through in Norway after Ordsmedar Of Rank was nominated for an Untouched Award in 2010. This song, and Mead, would eventually get radio play.

Meir by Kvelertak is available from Amazon. You can also order the album from Barnes & Noble or download it from iTunes. The band is currently touring in Norway and Sweden before heading to the United States toward the end of April. Shows are listed on Facebook. If the album art looks familiar, it should. It was designed by John Dyer Baizley of Baroness. The full image is here.
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