Kvelertak

support The Dogs + Dead Lord
author AP date 25/10/16 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Could it be that Kvelertak’s appeal has begun to wane? Certainly the fact that just 300 tickets were sold in advance of tonight’s concert raises the suspicion, considering how (deservedly) hotly tipped the Norwegian madmen continue to be, not to mention the yearning for redemption that must have taken hold of everyone who witnessed the disastrous sound issues at this year’s Roskilde Festival. The show tonight is even scheduled for a rare early start, so the usual working man’s problems cannot be the reason. The sextet did release a somewhat disappointing third album in “Nattesferd” earlier this year, but surely the average fan has not grown so impatient as to completely discard Kvelertak on the basis of it? Whatever the underlying cause(s) though, personally I would never forego the opportunity to watch one of my favourite artists live — especially as time and time again, Kvelertak has proven themselves one of the most fearsome live acts on the planet.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Dead Lord

Despite walking into a room populated by yours truly plus three patrons seated on stairs, Dead Lord opts to tackle the task of getting some blood coursing through our veins with true grit. The four-piece out of Stockholm, Sweden is of the same breed as Denmark’s own Lucer, playing the sort of no-frills hard rock that has no desire to be original, but agrees with your ear after just a few seconds. Indeed, Dead Lord seems to embrace the clichés and use those to their advantage: every one of the four musicians is donning some degree of denim (in the case of drummer Adam Lindmark, a wristband made of the stuff; in the case of frontman Hakim Krim & lead guitarist Olle Hedenström, the whole shebang of jeans and vests), and the blazing solos that dot the soundscape recall the days when it was still cool to lip-sync your every guitar note. And just to underline how much fun Dead Lord is having reminiscing about the late ’80s / early ‘90s heyday of the genre, there are of course the obligatory soap bubbles and plumes of smoke blasting from Krim’s amplifier as he sinks to his knees for some red hot shredding at the end of a guitar-off with Hedenström. There is of course a medley of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” in one of the songs. Of course Lindmark busts out a drum solo with flaming sticks, sending a cloud of sparks flying through the air.

The entire aesthetic of this band is so corny it becomes ironic, yet there is nothing facetious about the music itself. Mixing hefty doses of ‘Maiden-esque minor-key harmonies with Status Quo’s boogie rock and Thin Lizzy’s penchant for a slick riff, the six songs aired all have the prodigious quality of being super catchy right off the bat. There is no nonsense in either the vocal or instrumental department — just good, honest melodies that sounded delectable 30 years ago, and will still sound delectable 30 years from now. Ever wondered how certain rock bands continue to entertain such enormous fanbases? By appealing to virtually anyone with an ear for the euphonious. So while Dead Lord will likely never be celebrated as a milestone artist nor one shifting the chess pieces, their uplifting attitude, live energy and knack for penning a memorable tune should keep them ‘rocking audiences with their rock’ (their words, not mine) for years to come.

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The Dogs

With no prior knowledge about Oslo, Norway’s The Dogs, I must admit to harbouring some skepticism with regard to Kvelertak choosing the quintet as main support. The band’s discography reveals a staggering frequency of album releases (four in all between 2013 and 2015), singles and EPs, which to me is often a tell-tale sign of ‘just getting something out’ in order to justify touring. It turns out that my concerns are founded: The Dogs’ music is of an anonymous sort — a mixture of garage, cock rock and punk which is easy to listen to, but never striking. Where the group does shine however, is showmanship. Hell, The Dogs offer serious competition even to Kvelertak in terms of being the best live band in Norway, and much of that appeal owes to the bizarre antics of their vocalist.

The man is a born entertainer, with an unpredictable demeanour and a dark, sexually explicit sense of humour not unlike King Dude’s Thomas Jefferson Cowgill. The first song is barely underway when he leaps over the barrier and into the audience, roars in our faces and then proceeds to throw his microphone into said barrier at full strength. The next track, he announces, ”is about [his] index finger… on [his] prostate” (“Are You With Him Now?”), and sees him grabbing a photographer’s camera — first to take innocent photos of the audience, and since stretching the waistline of his jeans to take a few select snaps of… well, you know. Obviously, the performance is then as tongue-in-cheek as they come, even if the band takes its ‘art’ seriously enough to be donning identical outfits (black shirts with white, undone bowties). But the fickleness and extroversion of it is nonetheless extremely captivating, not to mention hilarious.

Humour comes so naturally to the frontman, and it never feels like his remarks and ideas were not conjured in the spur of the moment. Whether it is the entire band freezing in a tableau, the countless hugs between the musicians, or the vocalist shoving his microphone into one of the guitarists’ pants and imitating a blowjob whilst singing, the audience is kept at the edge of its ‘seat’ throughout. Wherever you turn your head, people are smiling and laughing, so even if The Dogs’ music leaves a lot to be desired, there is no denying that the Norsemen have an expert’s grasp on staging a SHOW. As a result, you find yourself mindlessly shouting ”O-S-L-O!” (the chorus of a track written ”about the greatest city in the world: Egypt.”) and laughing your ass off at the vocalist suspending himself from the barrier upside down, spitting into his pants, or laying flat on the venue floor with his outstretched leg to dangle the microphone above his lips. Inspiring? Hardly. Entertaining? Infinitely.

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Kvelertak

By the time the lights dim to signal Kvelertak’s impending arrival, the downstairs portion of the venue has swelled to house an audience a good deal more populous than the 300 tickets that were pre-sold. The band has a lot to prove, though of course the total malfunction of the Avalon tent’s sound system at Roskilde Festival was no fault of theirs. But as soon as vocalist Erlend Hjelvik emerges from the darkness donning an LED-lit fly’s head mask instead of the usual owl, it stands clear that Kvelertak does not mean simply to reproduce that concert just with an acceptable sound mix. The setlist has been changed up (if only a little), and for the first time, Hjelvik and his compatriots remain firmly on stage, never making one of their customary surf tours over the heads of the audience during the 17-song setlist.

Now, that could be a byproduct of touring fatigue, and certainly the fact that Hjelvik’s growling sounds less gnarly than usual would support that theory. But as something of a veteran when it comes to Kvelertak gigs, it is actually pretty refreshing that the sextet opts not to rehash those traditional antics, and instead focuses on delivering a badass metal’n’roll show. All three guitarists — Bjarte Lund Rolland, Maciek Ofstad & Vidar Landa — and bassist Marvin Nygaard engage in just as wild, if not even wilder showmanship than was the case at Roskilde’, clenching teeth and surging toward the crowd in threatening waves; swinging their instruments and madly rocking out. That this band can be so enthralling live despite the fact that few have any idea what lyrics Hjelvik is pelting out owes as much to the burning intensity with which they perform, as it does to the smoothness with which the musicians transition from black metal to boogie rock in seconds.

As I suspected in my review of “Nattesferd”, the oomph and punch of a live mix gives the new material a more appealing sheen, with especially the more subdued, elaborate picks like “Ondskapens galakse" and “Heksebrann” becoming instant highlights; contrary to their effect on the record, those more ‘kvelertypical’ choices like “Bronsegud” and “Berserkr”, less so. The moody lighting and the liberty of the guitarists, bassist and drummer Kjetil Gjermundrød to jam out in the former type of song works wonders in terms of overall variety, and as a result, the impact of live staples such as “Blodtørst”, “Offernatt” and “Kvelertak” is made all the greater. And whatever tiny discrepancies there may be, the band’s energy, even when not firing on all cylinders, still makes most other bands look like pussies.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Dendrofil for Yggdrasil
  • 02. 1985
  • 03. Mjød
  • 04. Bronsegud
  • 05. Månelyst
  • 06. Berserkr
  • 07. Evig vandrar
  • 08. Blodtørst
  • 09. Ondskapens galakse
  • 10. Nekroskop
  • 11. Svartmesse
  • 12. Offernatt
  • 13. Heksebrann
  • 14. Bruane Brenn
  • 15. Kvelertak

— Encore —

  • 16. Nattesferd
  • 17. Utrydd dei svake

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