Kvelertak

Meir

Written by: AP on 02/04/2013 23:10:58

Very few people that have heard it have been able to deny that Kvelertak's self-titled debut LP is one of the best, if not the best metal album of this decade thus far. The problem with bursting onto the scene amid such acclaim is of course the notion, where will they go from here? It is perhaps unsurprising then that the Norwegian sextet opted to name their second album "Meir", which translates simply to more; for how could Kvelertak possibly one-up themselves after such a formidable debut?

Indeed, more is a pretty accurate condensation of the album, as it is only through minor tweaks that Kvelertak differentiate "Meir" from its predecessor. The structure is nigh identical, with the more straightforward, accessible tracks grouped into the first half, and the more explorative, experimental and progressive tracks positioned at the latter half; the songs themselves continue to forge an unlikely alliance between heavy metal and punk, black metal and rock'n'roll. Kvelertak persist with the simplest of tools, creating extraordinary music from bits and pieces that, on their own, rarely sound particularly special - but when churned together by the mad ingenuity of guitarist, backing vocalist and main songsmith Bjarte Lund Rolland, form one of the most unique and readily recognisable sounds the metal scene has ever witnessed. The fact that nearly all of Kvelertak's lyrics are sung in Norwegian plays its part, too.

Contrary to the self-titled effort, "Meir" does not begin with the eponymous rallying call "Kvelertaaaaak!", nor does it dive headfirst into a banging punk drive, as was the case with "Ulvetid". No, here Kvelertak opt to begin things in slow, colossal, foreshadowing fashion, the three guitarists (completed by Maciek Nygaard and Vidar Landa, who doubles on piano) paying tribute with a trident lead that should have any Black Sabbath fan shuddering from satisfaction and developing an almighty thirst for what quickly becomes apparent is going to be another brilliant addition to Norway's proud musical heritage. Its title, "Åpenbaring", meaning revelation, is as appropriate as they come. The following "Spring fra Livet" does bear a certain resemblance to the aforementioned "Ulvetid" in that it follows a largely similar pattern of a turbocharged punk'n'roll riff giving way to tremolo and blastbeats - but this time the vibe is even more positive, as befits its lyrical theme of "getting your ass home" after a night out.

It is the first in a trio of songs not unlike "Ulvetid", "Mjød" and "Blodtørst" on the self-titled LP, succeeded first by the excellent, slightly more malignant "Trepan", and then by lead single "Bruane Brenn", which makes a strong stake at best Kvelertak song yet with a "Mjød" reminiscent acoustic intro initiating a Foo Fighters inspired riff, before a gang sung chorus which involves the provocative and infectious refrain of "Du skal aldri gå på jobb igjen" ("You'll never have to go to work again") earmarking it as the most memorable and mainstream-appealing song this band has written thus far. If this track doesn't drive you into a frenzy of headbanging, me-against-the-world defiance and party mood, then your soul must be cold as Blashyrkh. "Evig Vandrar" directly afterwards offers an even more urgent barrage of punk metal madness, before "Snilepisk" reinstates the undercurrent of black metal with a classic Darkthrone style main riff that breaks into a Mesopotamian interlude halfway. Cue seventh track "Månelyst" and one still has no cause for grievance: Kvelertak are sounding as exhilirating as ever, the triple guitar discharge adding a wealth of texture that ensures lasting value even on the nth listen, Rolland's off-kelter ideas shuffling the song between pop punk, black metal and Motörhead with baffling ease, and vocalist Erlend Hjelvik's possessed shrieks crowning the stuff as some of the strangest, coolest music out there right now.

Then come the songs that require a little more patience: "Nekrokosmos", "Undertro" and "Tordenbrak" - just as did "Nekroskop", "Liktorn" and "Utrydd dei Svake" on the previous effort. These are the songs that truly reveal the extent of Kvelertak's prowess, incorporating so much variety, so many impossible genre fusions and such bold audacity one cannot but bow in respect and hail this band that with each passing note seems destined for greatness. "Undertro", unquestionably the most black metal of the bunch, is particularly impressive with its overt nods to Taake and Vreid mingling with elements of doom and sludge before collapsing into an uplifting intermezzo that would not sound out of place on a classic AC/DC record. Fuck me this is good is the prevailing thought in my head right about then; Kvelertak having found the perfect balance between the fun, intelligent and daring yet again. The near 9-minute "Tordenbrak" is a far merrier affair; its primary intention is to pay tribute to classic heavy metal of the Sabbath school and in this regard the towering progressive colossos succeeds impeccably - managing even to incorporate a tambourine to the frey.

Concluding this festive collection of songs with a self-titled track - in stark irony considering that the self-titled album began by yelling that word which translates rather coolly to stranglehold - is as strong a statement as can be, forcing the point across that this is who Kvelertak are and intend to remain. The icing on top of the cake is, true to tradition, the magnificent artwork by John Dyer Baizley of Baroness fame that somehow condenses everything about the album into one richly detailed painting. "Meir" may not be as instantly arresting as its predecessor (which, in retrospect, deserved the full coveted 10), but it is no less potent. That no other band has currently managed, or even tried to resemble Kvelertak stylistically or musically goes a long way in explaining just how unlikely it is to succeed with such brazen musical concoctions, and how difficult it must be to fuse such wildly conflicting styles of music whilst still sounding as simple and accessible as any pop artist. And for that one must offer enormous praise.

9

Download: Spring fra Livet, Bruane Brenn, Evig Vandrar, Månelyst, Undertro, Tordenbrak
For the fans of: Mad infusions of rock'n'roll, punk and black metal paying tribute to heritage rock and classic heavy metal.
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Release date 25.03.2013
Roadrunner Records

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