2. Nattesferd – Kvelertak
Kvelertak, a band famed for its fusion of rock ’n’ roll, black metal, and hardcore punk, have largely stayed true to their formula on third album Nattesferd. Whilst some of the aggression is scaled back in favour of showcasing more of their rock ‘n’ roll influences, their songs still chant and shout about Norse gods and mead, backed by a thick groove – much like Ke$ha for Vikings.
Their choruses are infectiously catchy, to the extent that the lyrics all being in Norwegian can be overlooked, or even forgotten. The language doesn’t matter. You can feel what the music is about. Even translations don’t yield much additional insight; the lyrics are largely throwaway, and the band care more about having a good time than sending a message or creating high art. What makes the album stand out is the combined and coordinated attempt of guitarists Bjarte Lund Rolland and Maciek Ofstad and guitarist/pianist Vidar Landa to create densely layered songs, incorporating elements of dance, blues, and old-school heavy metal. Each song features a background guitar riff to set the tempo and individual guitar licks played over the top to add urgency, with Landa alternating between playing rapid piano chords and rapid guitar chords, as the mood dictates. Erlend Hjelvik’s vocals range from soaring and symphonic to strangled growls, but miraculously, you sense that regardless of which method of aural assault he’s deploying, he’s grinning madly through it all. The image of Thor riding into battle in leathers on the back of a Harley Davidson is hard to shake.
Earlier this year, fellow Scandinavians and Viking enthusiasts Amon Amarth unleashed tenth album Jomsviking, a slightly mellowed take on their tried-and-true melodeath method; one can’t help thinking Kvelertak won the accessibility battle with an effort as strong as this. Where Amon Amarth sounded weaker for decreasing the intensity of their sound without adding any new elements, Kvelertak have managed to replace some (but not all) their aggression with a greater sense of rhythm and dance-ability, and – crucially – don’t take themselves too seriously. They make music not to tell a story or celebrate their culture; they just try to create a soundtrack for a really good party, with plenty of ale and toasting.
Favourite Track: Nattesferd
Text by Aidan Lindsay
Picture research by Jonathan W. Espiritu; featured image taken from metalassault.com.