A word on the art first… it’s amazing. I love this piece as an album cover and I really enjoy the use of the black/white dichotomy in the swallows with the nude woman sitting atop the skull of a goat. Very nice use of space and motion. I could probably take a far long time deconstructing the piece and its vibrant use of color, but I won’t because that’s not the point. The point is a review of the music for which this piece was created.
Kvelertak is a band I should like: an amalgam of punk, black metal, and rock ‘n roll stylings. I eagerly, after seeing their descriptions a few years back on a number of metal news sites, anticipated listening to their first release. This album was widely loved and adulated as a watershed moment in this style, and I could never find a reason to like it. Flash forward to this year, Kvelertak’s Meir released to mixed critical reviews, ranging from a great follow up approach to decrying this album as a sophomore slump. I told myself that I didn’t like the style and that it had to be me; I wouldn’t listen to it. I would avoid this one and just let it slide. …Yet, here we are, I’m reviewing this album.
Meir’s got a clean, strong sound (if lacking in ambition and drive). Its lyrics are completely in Norwegian which works for the abrasiveness of their approach. Of the North Germanics, I find Norwegian’s staccato and stern sound lends itself well to being used with a harsh vocal tone. Kvelertak, to me, is a G’n’R-esque wall of sound fronted by a howling vocalist, whose acidity strikes the ear harsher than the tone of the music at times. I’m not certain this is a good thing however.
Simplest put, this is modern Cock Rock in the vein of Guns and Roses. It completely reminds me of that band’s use of metal, rock, blues, and pop to create their sound, which created this strange reality in which their songs that were intended to be hit singles were Guns and Roses’ absolute worst songs (strong exception is “Welcome to the Jungle”). Instead, Kvelertak uses black metal, punk, and rock to create their space, and due to the harshness and loneliness all ready present in black metal, I’m not certain returning the sound its punk root (in the vein of Venom and Bathory) is the wisest decision to use. The songs feel forced and at times unnaturally developed. The sounds in them do not really ever feel like they mesh well.
Ultimately, it’s a hell of experiment. If Kvelertak’s successful, they could catapult black metal usage to the forefront of the underground rock scene; however, with approaches like this I’m not certain that this will continue. I enjoy punk; I enjoy black metal; and I enjoy rock. Yet, I’m not certain that in combining these sounds creates anything original or new. I realize that we are in the midst of a retro-music craze where even bands like Opeth and musicians like Steven Wilson are looking to their roots and using those sounds. Hell, in pop, look at Adele. That said, Opeth, Adele, and Steven Wilson have the talent to pull it off well and maintain the core of their sound. At this point, I’m not even sure I know what the core of Kvelertak’s sound is, and to be frank, Orkenjott is the far superior band at this point in their career than is Kvelertak – and they both have a similar sound.
The most successful songs on this album are: Spring fra Livet, Trepan, and Nekrokosmos.