Review Summary: Blackcore is finally here!
Okay, maybe not. Kvelertak, other than being perhaps the coolest sounding word in existence, is a hardcore punk band from Norway who draw influence from black metal and old-school rock/metal, all of which blends into not only a unique but a refreshing sound. If you're got obsessive compulsive genre disorder, I suppose you could probably pin them down as "black'n'roll". Their self-titled debut album, produced by the seemingly ubiquitous Kurt Ballou, is very impressive and shows a lot of promise for such a young group of musicians.
Obviously, as a hardcore band Kvelertak's music largely revolves around breakneck riffs, pounding drums and loud vocals. And while this formula looks pretty simple and uninteresting when written down like this, Kvelertak, utilizing three guitarists to achieve an undeniable thick and fast sound, pull it off extremely well. Every song on their album is full of not only of incredibly catchy riffs, but the riffing comes in such a variety of styles it is impossible to get bored. There are bleak, tremolo picked riffs showcased early on in Ulvetid
and crushing power chords displayed in the likes of Fossegrim
making the clear influence of black metal apparent, tempered by far more melodic sections like the intro of Sjøhyenar (Havets herrer)
which wouldn't be out of place in an Iron Maiden song. Sultans of Satan
even breaks down halfway through into a groove driven jam accompanied by some psychedelic guitar squeals hugely reminiscent of the likes of Black Sabbath. All of this glued together fluidly by fast, head-bang inducing punky riffs. As another deviation from the standard hardcore mold, their are plenty of solos dotted about throughout the album, though (to their credit) they never seem to be able to overpower the tremendous riffs.
Homage to classic acts is definitely a theme throughout Kvelertak's music. Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik, rather than employing the same old throaty yell/scream that fans of hardcore are surely bored to death of by now opts to sing using a relatively high-pitched, nihilistic howl like the early black metal bands. Conversely, however, rather than choosing to sing in English like most of these black metal precursors did, Hjelvik sings in Norwegian, perhaps making them ironically more indifferent to international attention than their counterparts. Or maybe he just doesn't speak English. Regardless, his vocal performance is great on this album, but he steps aside on several occasions to allow several guest vocalists to abuse the microphone, most notable of these being Nattefrost and Ryan McKenney of Trap Them. These guest appearances add just the right amount of variation without outshining Hjelvik himself.
Even though I don't speak Norwegian and don't understand any of the lyrics, Kvelertak are clearly a band playing their music just for the hell of it. Yes, hardcore fans like it when their artists are passionate and intense or when they write intricate, heartfelt lyrics, but it's also really nice to listen to band that are clearly having loads of fun playing what they're playing. From the gang vocal shout of "Kvelertak!
" and drum roll that opens Ulvetid
, to the glorious, melodic and uplifting acoustic outro of Utrydd dei svake
, Kvelertak's debut album is an immensely enjoyable experience ideal not only for fans of hardcore but anyone who appreciates heavier music.