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Kvelertak | 'Meir'


Give yourself a few seconds before reading this review and YouTube, Spotify, Grooveshark, or whatever program-come-verb you uses to scope out some tracks from Kvelertak’s 2010 debut if you’re not aware of them.

Rock and drum that keyboard during ‘Ulvetid’. Let your foot tap the beat and chorus break during ‘Mjød’. Yep, that’ll get you up in the morning.

The debut was a riff-heavy, raw and spirited album that the Norwegian group put out. Part of what made that record such a rocking clusterbomb was the the infectious enthusiasm the band exhibited.

The elements were familiar, but the spark was there, burning bright and catching the ear and eye just as easily as their occasional Black Metal flourishes and blasts did. The group were clearly rocking with every fibre of their bodies.

Blackened, in-your-face rock from Norway, that sounded Norwegian. Hell, they’d more spit and fire going than Turbonegro at times.

While their general sound reflects a lot of the sludgy, lead-punctuated guitar that typifies US bands like Baroness and Doomriders, their brutal use of the Norwegian language, and a merciless ear for a hook set it apart.

Step up, ‘Meir’, the difficult second album. By contrast, it sounds a step back from that onslaught.

It’s a softer sounding mix for the most part that we’re subjected to, that’s only truly punctuated for the first time when single ‘Bruane Brenn’ swings around. Letting the guitar slide up to a sleazy riff and some nice gang vocals really kick things up a gear. It’s a flash of the style the group can display.

Yet it’s clearly debatable whether this improved production actually has had the desired effect for Kvelertak. It definitely sounds slicker, but the acid croak of Erland Hjelvik sounds far more muted. Everything sits back in the mix.

It’s a sorry thing to be constantly comparing a record to its predecessor, but it’s tough work not to, when ‘Meir’s guitars only occasionally sound like they’ve been let out to play. Here, they’re shouting from the wings rather than roaring in your face.

One gets the impression, like Baroness’s last, they’ve sought to approach a lighter and more nuanced approach. The artwork is eerily similar to that last Baroness effort, and the sound has diversified. The variation exhibited during ‘Snilipesk’ is testament enough to that.

Sadly, as the album winds to a close with precious few moments of glory sighted – to be honest it’s hard not to ask where is the ROCK for Christ’s sake. Something’s fallen short as the acoustic interludes of ‘Snilepisk’ roll by.

While there’s nothing wrong with a lot on offer here, repeated listens have only provided the most cursory of impacts on grey matter.

Bottom line is there is simply less to be enjoyed. Their best moments stick to the formula of AC/DC style stomp and licks, like the refrain on ‘Undertro’, but weighted down with strange sense of moderation that creeps over the whole record.

A lot of the time, filler just creeps in. I’d venture the second half of the record, while non-offensive, doesn’t grab you by the face once.

An exasperating record that showcases some of the band’s best aspects, along with a hefty order of what normalizes them – with reluctance, this reviewer reports ‘Meir’ is far more standard fair.

2.8 / 5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 17/04/13


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2 Comments
  1. This album is fucking incredible. Standard fair? You must be off your head!

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