Review

Review

Kvelertak: 'Meir' – CD Review

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Kvelertak
Norwegian six-piece metal unit Kvelertak (in true metal form, the name translates as “chokehold”) first crashed onto the scene in 2010 with their self-titled debut album, establishing their intent to synthesize at least twenty metal styles into a single unstable but powerful sonic warhead. Their follow-up release Meir (“More,” another no-bullshit title) is another extreme music hybrid, with thrash, grind, death, prog, punk and power metal in the mix once again, this time with a stronger injection of muscular arena rock, doubling down on the wild energy of the original with solid, more pop-flavored production to juice it up. Unlike the majority of Scandinavian metallers – and the majority of their Roadrunner label-mates, for that matter – Kvelertak sing only in their native tongue, which may take the lyrical content off the table for some of us, but their musical delivery is so brutally contagious that in the end it doesn't really matter: Meir is pure party metal in any language.
 
Kvelertak_Meir
 
The feedback storm and simple lead guitar line of "Åpenbaring" seems innocent enough, until you realize the whole track is one big, ever-building crescendo, exploding into scorching, punkish verses and multi-voice chorus chants, spread out across a vast soundspace. Like most of the cuts on this record, it's a small but intense serving, and joins a seemingly endless train of courses. "Spring Fra Livet” is a high-speed collision of KISS-sized cock rock, black metal blastbeats and deep fried blues that just should not work at all, but somehow they find a hook in there and swing it... and did I mention the lyrics are all in Norwegian? You won't notice either. A more fixed blackened death rhythm seems to drive "Trepan,” but then it veers off into Mastodon-mode cosmic metal with a tough hardcore edge and mega-sized production. The lead single "Bruane Brenn" flips the formula, eventually strutting into a variation on '70s glam, tossing in some twangy road rock just to throw you off.
 
With its clean strummed opening and soaring power chords, "Evig Vandrar" plays like '80s hair metal gone completely berserk (I know, just go with it), and "Snilepisk" flips to the more blackened side and generally stays in that groove for a while, but "Månelyst" incorporates a little of both, tempering the mix with a grounded, rolling rhythm. Raunchy, bent chords are the meat of "Nekrokosmos," which is equal parts punk and alt-metal and surprisingly consistent in both (not to mention a sweet breakdown), and the spirit of Mastodon resurfaces in “Undertro," one of the more mystical-sounding tracks... though there's a break in there that's pure KISS. "Tordenbrak" is an earthier entry with a distinctive '70s radio rock flavor, which again just has no right to be juxtaposed with slamming blackened beats, but these cats somehow manage to carry it off. The album closes with a bang via the eponymous anthem "Kvelertak,” with another catchy, bluesy riff and a fist-pumping call to arms that made me seriously consider learning Norwegian just to be able to sing along with a chorus this cool.
 
Kvelertak_live
Stylistically Meir may be all over the metal map and beyond, but the unbridled chaos laid down in these tracks adds so much primal power to Kvelertak's game that it lifts their music up to a level of irresistible fun, and as I said, even ultimately transcends the language barrier. That anything-goes vibe also translates well to the crazed mix-and-match horror movie visuals of this music video for "Månelyst,” and there's at least half a dozen film references (some direct, others more freestyle) kicking around in here, so if you're already digging the track you'll have a little bonus fun picking them out.
 
 
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