Kvelertak – S/T   Leave a comment

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For someone who grew up worshipping technical virtuosos like Ritchie Blackmore and Chris Squire, music that sounds like the rough equivalent of two-year olds banging on pots and pans looked to me, at least in my youth, to be a steaming pile of shit.  But as it tends to do, life got a hold of me and showed me that people eat shit.  And like it.  So, as most of us eventually do, I gave up, grabbed a spoon and dug in:  I bought a couple of punk and black metal records, none of which sucked as hard as I expected. 

As far as black metal is concerned, if pressed, I’ll take the second wave over the first. (I’ll never understand everyone’s obsession with Bathroy.)  Immortal’s “At the Heart of Winter”, Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse” and  Enslaved’s “Isa” are mandatory albums; everything else is subsidiary.  When it comes to punk, I tend to stick to the obvious:  Buzzcocks’ “Another Music in a Different Kitchen”, Dead Kennedys’ “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables”, but I’ll throw on Bad Religion’s “Against the Grain” every once in a while, just for good measure.  What I really can’t get behind, though, are the ‘lifestyles’ a lot of the members of these communities promote.  Let’s just focus on corpse paint?  Just for minute?   Please?  What kills me most about this whole sociological phenomenon is not the end state.  Granted, the makeup itself looks fucking ridiculous, but face painting pervades a lot of social institutions.  (Sports, anyone?)  I’ve just got this picture in my mind of a young man — early 20’s — angry at the world because it’s cold out every single fucking day, and apparently, The Church is responsible for bastardizing… wait for it:  viking culture.  But instead of turning to the academy and becoming a good little philosopher like say, a German would do, he raids his mother’s makeup drawer, takes an hour out of his day to paint his face with said makeup, all in the hopes of burning a Church that night.  Must be a cultural thing.  Who knows.  But given my mixed feelings about these forms of music, it came as a complete surprise when I landed Kvelertak’s self-titled, debut album (Indie Recordings) and absolutely loved it. 

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a straight up, balls-to-the-wall rock ‘n’ roll record record draped in black metal garb.  This LP is dripping with some of the best classic rock and punk hooks I’ve heard in years, not to mention the fact that it is laden with some mean and nasty snarls, blast beats and tremlo picking.  (The entire album is sung in Norwegian too, which is nice, ’cause Kvelertak could be singing about the ignorance of Christians or raging against the establishment or whatever it is that is pissing off twenty year old punkers and black metalers, and I would be none the wiser.)  Sure, black-punk hybrid bands are nothing new.  Darkthrone has been at it for years now.  (If you haven’t picked up “Circle the Wagons” yet, you’re missing out.) But every once in a while, there comes a band that takes an institution and makes it their own, leaving everyone else in their wake. Apparently, Kvelertak woke up one morning and decided to storm Darkthrone’s temple, cut off their heads and throw them down the fucking stairs.   Blasphemous, you say?  Maybe.  Or maybe these guys are just that fucking good. 

I’ve never been one for a song-by-song review.  Particulars tend to bore me, and I’d much rather use my column space to rant, as I’m sure is becoming clear.  But I’m almost tempted to do one for Kvelertak.  Almost.  Let’s just say that this album is going to crack a bunch of Top 10s this year, and rightfully so.  (Just planting seeds here, folks.)   Kvelertak has unabashedly grabbed the metal scene by its throat and delivered an album so unique, so goddamn catchy, you’ll be left wondering how the black metal scene didn’t arrive here sooner.  (And it’s their first album!)  Hyperbole aside, if you really want to get a sense for what these guys are all about, pick up this album, pop it into your stereo, jack up the volume (this ain’t a headphones album, kids) and flip it to “Sultans of Satan”.  The song begins like any straight up Norwegian rocker — unison vocals, little folksy, lots of aggression. Just when you think they’re gonna digress into some shitty black metal interlude you’ve heard a million times before, out of nowhere, these fuckers break into The Who’s “Sparks” and tear it up. (I swear you’re gonna have fun digging into this album and trying to place where you’ve heard this line or that lead.)  The song then launches into one of the crunchiest riffs I’ve heard in a long, long while.  (Hello awesome guitar tone, where have you been this year?)  Really, though, and I can’t stress this enough, the entire album is just as fantastic as this one song, nary a bad tune on there.  You’ve got your straight up rockers like “Offernatt” that are looking to slay you with the riff rather than traditional black metal offerings.  However, songs like “Ulvetid”, the album’s opener, demonstrate that these guys are unequivocally black at heart, even if they throw in a couple of Kiss-esque hooks to boot  “Mjod”, Kvelertak’s first single, puts on display the sort of punk attitude that’s going to legitimize this band in the eyes of a lot of people.  Production here is just what you would want out of an album like this: not too raw like most black metal or punk records, but loose enough to let Kvelertak’s aggression bubble to the top.   (Did I mention this is their debut album?) 

Let it be said that Kvelertak ain’t your father’s punk, or classic rock, or black metal, or folk or psychedelic… well, you get the idea.   And while I’m sure some people are going to write off Kvelertak as “trendy”  or “hipster-ish”, that’s fine. As far as I’m concerned, Kvelertak and Nachtmystium can take the lead on the future of black metal; I’ll follow; and we’ll leave the doubters behind.

Review Written By A.J Djalali
Kvelertak Merch Store


Posted July 9, 2010 by doommantia in Kvelertak

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