You gotta love it when a band comes out of nowhere and totally takes the scene by storm. Such is the case with Norway's Kvelertak, who released their self-titled debut in 2010 to a completely unsuspecting world and quickly became one of the most buzzed about bands of that year. Since then, this ragtag sextet of Norwegian party animals have toured with the likes of Mastodon, Gojira, and Slayer, and even managed to garner the much-coveted approval of modern rock's own poster child, the one and only Dave Grohl.
2013 saw the release of Kvelertak's sophomore album, Meir, which wasn't as well-received as their debut, but was still a solid album full of booty-shaking tunes nonetheless. There's something incredibly charming about the way Kvelertak take the inaccessibility of black metal and fuse it with the accessibility of classic rock, and if their latest album, Nattesferd, is any indication, it seems as though these guys have damn-near perfected their winning formula.
Kvelertak really wear their influences on their sleeves this time around, more so than their first two albums. They built their reputation on meshing black metal with rock n' roll, a combination appropriately dubbed "black n' roll," but Nattesferd is far more indebted to some of the legendary classic rock acts than it is Mayhem or Darkthrone. It's awesome to listen to Nattesferd and attempt to pick out the acts Kvelertak brilliantly pays homage to in some of the songs.
Album opener "Dendrofil for Yggdrasil" starts with a blackened, tremolo riff and furious blast beats, but parts of the song sound like they were written by Tom Scholz of Boston; lead single "1985" is a total feel-good, fist-pumping Van Halen anthem, and the opening lick of "Svartmesse" is total "Eye of the Tiger" worship. As always, frontman Erland Hjelvik bellows entirely in his native Norwegian language, and even though it's impossible to know what the hell he's singing about (unless of course, you speak Norwegian), the way he delivers his vocal lines makes it impossible not to sing along, even if what you're singing is more than likely to be complete gibberish. It's part of the allure of Kvelertak; they're like that one blitzed guy singing drunken karaoke at a party and inspiring all the other drunk people to join in.
In addition to the standard-fare rockers Kvelertak is so adept at, Nattesferd also sees the band exploring new avenues, particularly with "Ondskapens Galakse" and "Heskebrann." The former is the closest Kvelertak have come to writing a power ballad, while the latter is the longest song they've written, clocking in at just past nine minutes. The band relies on a catchy melody that builds and builds before going balls to the wall with a huge chorus. This track reminded me of Rainbow's "Stargazer" for some reason, which is certainly not a bad thing. The mid-tempo "Nekrodamus" closes out the album, and has an almost stoner rock vibe to it, which is yet another new trick that Kvelertak manages to pull off successfully.
That Kvelertak enlisted the talents of renowned artist Arik Roper to create the artwork for Nattesferd instead of previous collaborator John Dyer Baizley indicates a slight shift in the band's direction, but one that will most certainly not turn off anybody who's already fallen in love with them. If anything, Nattesferd serves as the culmination of Kvelertak's career as a band up to this point, a satisfying payoff to their trajectory from a relatively obscure Norwegian band to one of metal's most fun and versatile acts. No matter what subgenre of metal or rock the listener may be partial to, it's hard not to not walk away from Nattesferd with a huge smile and a head full of sweat.