A versatile Norwegian heavy metal outfit, Kvelertak's Valhalla party anthems draw as heavily from sources like punk, NWOBHM, hardcore, and classic rock as they do traditional, larynx-shredding Scandinavian black metal. Emerging in 2010 with their acclaimed eponymous debut, the band wasted little time in taking over the airwaves of their homeland. After securing multiple Spellemannprises (the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award), Kvelertak set their sights elsewhere, with 2013's Meir, 2016's Nattesferd and 2020's Splid finding favor with European and American audiences as well. The self-described "black 'n' roll" sextet Kvelertak ("Chokehold") formed in 2007 in Stavanger, Norway's third-biggest city and home to several popular gothic metal bands. Kvelertak's sound could not have been more different, however. Fusing the raw punk 'n' roll sound pioneered by the likes of Turbonegro with the harsh, shrieking fury of black metal was not a new idea -- it had already been done with great success by fellow Norwegians Satyricon -- but this was arguably the first time it had been attempted by a band of "regular guys" not already grounded in the black metal idiom. An early demo, Westcoast Holocaust, and steady touring earned them a devoted fan base, and in 2010 they released their eponymous debut album. Recorded by Converge's Kurt Ballou and released by Oslo's Indie Recordings (and later by the End in the US), Kvelertak was a surprise global hit, with its lyrics all in Norwegian. Critics praised the band's sledgehammer sound and the freshness in their mash-up of genres, and the album went gold, giving the group two Spellemann Awards (the Norwegian Grammys) and leading to a deal with Sony Music in Scandinavia and massive metal factory Roadrunner in the rest of the world, opening them up to a global audience. Their second album, Meir ("More"), was released in 2013 and was another critical and commercial hit, despite some controversy over its cover art by influential American artist John Dyer Baizley (of the band Baroness) -- of a naked mother-goddess figure spattered with bird droppings. Early 2016 saw the release of the fiery singles "1985" and "Berserkr," with the band's third studio long-player, Nattesferd, dropping later that May. The LP drew near-universal critical acclaim and helped land the band a pair of high-profile opening tour slots with Metallica and Ghost. In 2018, longtime vocalist Erlend Hjelvik announced that he would be leaving Kvelertak to pursue other projects. Ivar Nikolaisen, an occasional backing vocalist and close friend of the band, officially joined the group in 2019, and made his studio debut on their fourth full-length effort, 2020's Splid.
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo
© John D. Buchanan /TiVo
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Metal - Released March 26, 2013 | Roadrunner Records
Norway's Kvelertak (Norwegian for "chokehold") turned heads, some of which went all the way around Linda Blair-style, with their 2010 eponymous debut, an extreme metal "fasterpiece" that took the genre to the mat, flipped it over on its belly, and went in for the tickle. On 2013's Meir, the band's Roadrunner Records debut, the spirited, Stavanger-based six-piece doubles down (Meir = More) on their signature blend of thrash, black, power, death, and punk metal, offering up an 11-track tray of mead shots that leave the listener in happy little pieces. This isn't your black greasepaint-covered father's extreme Scandinavian metal. Kvelertak subvert the genre in the same way Andrew W.K. does, by taking all of the exclusivity out of it and shifting the focus to what decibel-shattering music is really about: partying. That said, Meir is hardly an exercise in camp, nor is it imbued with any kind of hipster irony. Songs like "Spring Fra Livet," with its ratty, snarling verses and explosive, life-affirming chorus (sung with polyp-inducing viciousness by frontman Erlend Hjelvik), and the epic single "Bruane Brenn," which pairs the seismic crunch of Mastodon and the mad, melodic glee of fellow countrymen Kaizers Orchestra with a guitar breakdown that's pulled straight out of the Mutt Lange playbook, bristle with the feral and fantastic fatalism of youth, while desperately holding on to tried and true classic rock underpinnings for support. Kvelertak have the chops and the attitude, but best of all they have the songs, which is more than can be said about some of their contemporaries. They may use familiar ingredients, but they're familiar for a reason. Meir is, simply put, fu*king delicious. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo