Review: Kvelertak - Meir

Writing the follow up to one of the most universally revered debuts of the century, an oddly brilliant amalgam of Black Metal and Rock and Roll, - Black 'n' Roll - was always going to be a daring feat for Kvelertak. The Norwegian band's self-titled introduction to the world of Heavy Metal was a raucous, scintillating combination of fantastic musicianship, impeccable production and the ultimately successful pairing of two genres that one imagined couldn't have worked together previously. The Norse mythology that frontman Erlend Hjelvik likes to scream about - in the band's native Norwegian - lent an outrageous and conscious mystery to the music. "We're going to fuck Odin's widow while giving you awesome riffs". We don't know what the fuck Kvelertak are screaming about but for the fact that it's about Norse gods, and that's the point. You don't want to know. That's still the point on Meir.

The first minute of Meir layers the instruments on top of each other. The lead guitar is introduced, then the rhythm guitarist mimics the riff and the drums fall on top. It's a more tenuous intro compared to the former's Ulvetid, which presented the tremolo picking and blast beats about as subtly as a line in a Kvelertak song heard through the ears of a Norwegian. However, for all its attempts to build up to a climax worthy of the record it is directly following, the come up is short-lived on Ă…penbaring. The hard sell is more than half of the song and it amounts to much of nothing. Spring Fra Livet  and Trepan are different, as the sprightly riffs - hooks in their own right - make their way over from the debut. Kvelertak have a knack for writing loud, sharp leads, infusing the lively lifelessness of Black Metal into them them while singing about vicious and bloody Norse mythology and remaining cheery and elated. It's a talent I envy.

Bruane Brenn is a hook-laden track and an instrumental feast, packing a meandering midsection that compliments its infectious nature. On Evig Vandrar it's almost frightening how deceptively Kvelertak turn in a completely different direction - only minutes ago they were almost translating corpse paint and ale into music. Suddenly, they're opening a Metallica show, a sold out arena, echo chamber as distinct as ever. Evig Vandrar isn't a bad track. In parts, it's trademark Kvelertak, but all of a sudden, they're not fucking Odin's widow while giving us awesome riffs. The former of that is probably true, in fact; I still haven't learnt Norwegian. I do know a good riff when I hear one, though. There aren't many on this particular song.

Two tracks later and it's full fledged Metallica worship. Thankfully, Kvelertak sound more like Kill 'em All Metallica, breaking into the most euphorically reminiscent homage of a solo: this thing should be on Kill 'em All. It's by far the best moment on the album and it's a testament to the fact that Kvelertak's music is best heard under an old school or underground filter rather than with the concert hall setting on the old iPod equalizer turned all the way up. Nekrokosmos is an even further expanse of the tastes of the band with the latter half boasting an atmospheric, almost Post-Metal segment. One almost forgets that all the while, this bearded Norwegian is screaming his lungs out in the name of being intoxicated and Odin. The fact that it's in Norwegian saves the music from the Amon Amarth syndrome. It almost definitely would be infinitely more cringe-worthy if the lyrics were in English.

Tordenbrak is an almost nine-minute epic, a riff-producing machine, a monster of a song and certainly the most ambitious in Kvelertak's library. Almost halfway through it, for a split second, Kvelertak transform into Baroness, emulating that jagged, piercing quality to the strings and taking it from there, expertly erupting into a sprawling and lengthy jam that perfectly rounds out this record with a wall of noise. Except, it doesn't.

The eponymous last track of the album is an unmemorable one - there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it, apart from the fact that it follows what should be a remarkable album closer. Instead of finishing on a high note, the record shoots itself in the foot by reminding the listener of its ultimately forgetful nature. At times, Meir impresses and surprises almost as brilliantly as the debut does. For this, it's a great record, but as a sophomore effort, it partly feels wasted as well as unnecessarily drawn out. In any case, Meir is simply that: More. Don't expect another revelation and you won't come out disappointed, but look forward to the future, because Kvelertak aren't done with Odin's widow.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

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