IN SEARCH OF SPACE #19 - Kvelertak - Kvelertak

Oh the vicissitudes of the human mind. After a solid afternoon being run down by that Golem of a Silencer album again and again while composing my thoughts, I needed a swift spiritual kick to the head to make me feel a bit better disposed to the idea of not digging into my wrists with a kitchen knife. In a half coma, I remembered a black metal band on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, one with a groove so good and cuts so catchy you’ll find yourself wondering what we saw in Hendrix. Let me introduce you to metals next big thing. Ladies and gentlepeople, it gives me orgasmic pleasure to introduce to you to Kvelertak. Kvelertak are the muscular standard bearers for the post-black metal movement. Black metal was unashamedly great, sure most of the music was derivative noise with little or no aesthetic value, but select albums, like that Silencer record, will really stick in the craw of many a person and change their opinion of music as a whole, and a genre that divisive and important is a rare and fascinating thing. Black metal is mostly over; like punk, once the shock value goes out of things it’s hardly worth pursuing anymore. The post-black metal movement is in full swing though, with bands like Solefald and Ghost lining up to take the sound and aesthetic in wild and wonderful new directions, and Kvelertak is the most viscerally unapologetically enjoyable album to yet come out of that movement. Think Hendrix playing for Torche; and then that mixed with Darkthrone mated with Mayhem and the baby delivered by caesarean section by a acid-addled Sid Vicious; BUT even that doesn’t do it justice. I may never have heard music as good as this. When I first heard Kvelertak’s debut self-titled record, it shot up the ranks of my favourite albums of all time like it had been wearing rocket boots and is still climbing. Some of the groove carpet laid down on this record for you to feel between your heathen toes is so thick and addictive it’s like heroin milkshake. It’s a stunning tribute to something that really has rocked the foundations of Scandinavian culture, black metal, sung as it is entirely in Norwegian; and a breathless love letter to the electric guitar by way of commemorating all the great stuff played on it. It is absolutely superb. Kvelertak is the sort of album that makes me think, if I can only get one this good every ten years, I can put up with as much cynical plastic pop and brain-dead tone-deaf metal as you can throw at me, I have enduring proof of what music can do.

What smacks as honest and deeply fascinating about this record is the exuberant infectious energy going into everything. A lot of that is down to Erlend Hjelvic’s brutal but accessibly fun vocal running across every track. It is all wrapped up in a wonderfully warm energetic punk rock vibe where the record never relents, at all; it isn’t a battering, more like a water slide that goes on for 40 minutes; an endless stream of brightly coloured fun tied up in a raucous but still involving lo-fi production that draws the obvious but hitherto-overlooked parallels between punk and black metal out into the sunlight to become a point of discussion. It’s wonderfully inventive to boot, there are riffs on this album straight out of the Blue Cheer playbook, and there’s black metal tremolo picking and everything in between. In a glorious melting-pot of flavours from all across the rock globe and rock history, Kvelertak have made something truly staggering. It’s a black metal punk-rock never-stop fist-punching feet-stomping instant classic that moves at a thousand miles an hour. Everything necessary is taken from each element, from black metal come the vocals and some of the musical elements, successfully separated from the Siamese twin of unlistenability and dull ten minute explorations of nothing. From punk rock comes the speed and good-natured ferocity. From psychedelic rock comes the inherently enjoyable grooviness that will have you up and dancing regardless of your musical bias. It’s truly thunderous and more than just being an album of the year, is one of the few records I’ll still be regularly spinning years and years from now. 

Fresh is a word I use a little too often in my other work, but Kvelertak really is fresh. It is the musical equivalent to a windy day, or stepping out of an icy shower or a cold crisp beer. With a single blast it just removes all cynicism, expectation and doubt. You’re in the hands of Kvelertak now, fasten your seatbelts and ensure your seat backs and tables are in their upright and locked positions. Ensure you forget where your nearest exit is because you don’t want to miss a second of what these six Norwegian headcases are about to lay down.

Written under duress by Steven

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