You'd be hard pressed to find a metal band more hyped than Kvelertak in the last two years. Having released their self-titled debut in 2010 through Indie Recordings, it wasn't until that album was released in the US in March 2011 that shit really started getting nuts. Following a number of high profile gigs during SXSW that year and a subsequent full scale tour, Kvelertak fever had taken hold in America. The band's live reputation became so formidable that it almost seemed like an afterthought when a follow up record was finally announced late last year.
Meir is Norwegian for "more", which is your first hint that this wasn't intended to be any kind of reinvention. With similar cover art by Baroness' John Baizley, it's almost a companion piece of sorts to the first record, albeit a full three years removed. Which is not to say that Meir is a "mere" retread: depending on the degree to which the experimental flair on the previous album was a key selling point, the more stripped down, rock & roll aesthetic of Album #2 will either come off like a band growing up or a band dumbing down.
"Bruane Brenn" should be familiar by now, the video having being released back in early January, and it's as indicative of anything as to where this band is headed; it's almost as if the unexpected success of the band's first record planted ideas in their head, ideas of just how close they were to obtaining legitimate mainstream exposure. "Bruane Brenn" is certainly catchy, but there's a certain disposability to it that unfortunately carries over to the harder edged tracks as well.
"Månelyst" is the second single and continues the seeming quest for crossover success, though admittedly an earworm with its QOTSA-like central riff and driving rhythm. It's arguably the best thing on the album, but it comes seven songs into the track listing, following which Kvelertak finally unveil a trio of extended workouts that recapture some of that devil-may-care experimentalism of the first record. By spreading these three songs out the band may have positioned the album as successfully multifaceted, but by burying them on the back nine they are rendered less a palliative and more patience-wearing.
Meir is hardly a disaster but it regrettably falls short of the potential exhibited on the first Kvelertak album. Erlend Hjelvik continues to be an engaging vocalist, and Kurt Ballou's production is predictably superb, but it's hard to believe it took three guitarists to come up with the middling, one dimensional riffs on display throughout a good chunk of the running order. Hopefully it won't take another three years to right the ship.