Review Summary: Far from falling into sophomore slump, Meir takes the progressive elements of its predecessor and stretches them out for tasty, tasty results. With a side of kick your ass again.
Most North Americans were not exposed to the powerful substance known as Kvelertak until 2010. While not a completely original formula, the chocolate/peanut butter idea really doesn't need that excuse, and neither does this band. The bands exciting, gratuitious blend of hardcore, punk, and several blackened metal stylings had most listeners hooked. Hooked as balls.
So here we are in March 2013, and Meir, their second album, is one of the metal community's most anticipated albums. What are we to expect? After several spins, I am happy to say that I am far from disapointed. Kvelertak have evened out their penchant for gnarly bone crusher riffs and singalong hellraising with a slightly more proggy songwriting style, to honestly exciting results. Let's discuss.
The opening salvo of 'Apenbaring,' 'Spring Fra Livet, and 'Trepan' come out swinging. Get out your tamborines, get out your war axes; it's time for beers in Valhalla. But as some will likely remember, that was essentially the tone of their entire last record. Quickly, things get interesting. It could have been anticipation, but it has been a long time since I've got goosebumps from new music. And though short lived, those brief haunting moments of 'Alpenbaring' set the stage for a lot Meir where that came from.
The instrumentation is clearly more focused and less cliched than the last record. Original moments abound, many of them requiring a double take to appreciate in the context of the album. Acoustic guitars ring throughout, even briefly leading the songs like the lycanthropic stomper 'Evig Vandrar.' Tasteful tempo changes really make for some almost hilariously awesome moments in 'Snilepisk,' a song where the hardcore punk elements shine through violently.
And also to be noted is Converge's Kyrt Ballou's yet again excellent production, particularly in the way it has evolved from the last album. Textures are allowed to punctuate the songs, and sound effects slither away from the quieter moments like in 'Nekrokosmos' and then brought to blazing, full-band life again. But it never sounds overproduced. You'd more likely think how excited you were to see them do it live than wonder how they'd pull it off.
Throughout the album, several surprises lay in wait. Some of them strange, but none of them completely unwelcome. Rhythms syncopate and water-weenie their way around themselves, guitar harmonies change direction, the tribal drums come out... all of these things and more pop up across the album. There's a moment of sheer Tenacious D-type genius when the solo on 'Manelyst' rips through your speakers. It makes for some campy moments, but somehow there seems to be a more mature tone to the record. It never takes it self too seriously, but personally I feel like they put an emphasis on evolving their craft, and they have almost entirely succeeded.
It's not a perfect record. Some riffs I wanted to stay longer, some extended moments could have been explored further and made more interesting, rather than sort of meandering. But Meir still manages to stand tall on its own. It would be easy to have delivered Kvelertak II, which I would have foamed at the mouth for anyway. But approaching this record with an open mind is well worth the effort, because the maturing sound of the band is far from stale.
The record closes with the one-two punch of 'Tordenbrak and 'Kvelertak.' These are intense, slow burning, strap-yourself-on-a-rocket-to-the-sun kind of songs. 'Kvelertak' is the kind of anthemic powerhouse jam that inspires teenagers to start these kind of bands in the first place. While it perfectly wraps up the album, it could easily have wrapped up the last one, or began it. An amazing capture of lightning in a bottle that absolutely will rule when played live.
Have a couple beers and enjoy this album. For your health.