Kvelertak

support Blood Command
author AP date 08/03/22 venue Kulturbolaget, Malmö, SWE

It is starting to become a bit trite to announce all these post-pandemic firsts, but this odyssey to Malmö in Sweden was the first concert abroad yours truly had attended since 2019. I would not be making the journey on a weekday under ordinary circumstances — but as the long-standing readers of our webzine will know, Kvelertak is one of my all-time favourite bands, and having not seen the Norwegian rousers since Copenhell 2019, it was thus imperative that I refreshed my memory of why I hold them in such high regard. 35 minutes on the train, a burger and a beer, and a moment of confusion related to cash versus card usage at the venue later, I was ready to be rattled once more, first and foremost by the headliner, but also by the supporting Blood Command, for whom I also have an affinity.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Blood Command

The self-proclaimed ‘death pop’ act from the Norwegian city of Bergen gets off to a high octane start, driven by the cajoling rhythm and groove of “Ctrl + Art + Delete” off their 2017 offering “Cult Drugs”. All five members are jumping up and down in situ, with the bassist and guitarists landing a couple of dropkicks in the process, and the band’s new vocalist Nikki Brumen showing herself off as a fireball of energy, more than capable of filling the shoes of her predecessors Silje Sombre and Karina Ljone. Wearing an Adidas track suit and sports bra, she remarks that at last night’s Gothenburg show, she overheard some idiot suggesting she “looks like a Russian hooker” and then proceeds to wish us all a “happy international women’s day!” in a tone bristling with sarcasm. Fortunately there do not seem to be such cavemen in attendance here, but whatever indignation Brumen should feel she transfers into her frenetic showmanship, ensuring that tracks like “Quitters Don’t Smoke” and the excellent “You Can’t Sit with Us” come across as even more intense live than they do on record.

Blood Command have a brand new album called “Praise Armageddonism” on the horizon for July — one we are told was recorded with Brumen stuck in her native Australia due to the pandemic and the rest of the band tracking their parts in Norway — so naturally the setlist also includes a handful of tasters from it. One of the most striking examples is “A Villain’s Monologue”, a melodic and anthemic piece with gang shouts begging for the audience to participate, if only we knew the lyrics, and a striking departure from the otherwise frenetic hardcore punk style this group used to push on their first three albums. It remains to be seen whether this is a general feature of the new material, but certainly both “Nuns, Guns & Cowboys” and “The End Is Her”, too, lend credence to that ‘death pop’ label, as does Brumen’s showmanship; classic pop star with a mischievous twist. Armed with moves like Jagger and a sense of humour as dry as Ricky Gervais’, there is never a still moment with her as she dances, jumps, arches back, and eventually collapses onto the floor whilst kicking and punching at the air during the crescendo of the penultimate “Cult of the New Beat” off 2012’s “Funeral Beach”. And when the finale — the aforementioned “The End Is Her” — arrives, the rest of the band has joined her in a twisted dance that cements Blood Command’s performance as a tireless and riveting spectacle you should be sorry to have missed.

8

Kvelertak

A thin veil obscures the stage as the first notes of “Rogaland” (the opening track from Kvelertak’s latest album, 2020’s “Splid”) reverberate around the venue, and one by one the six musicians that comprise the band appear as giant silhouettes in what is a tried and tested, yet nonetheless effective way to build tension. Only a few seconds after the veil drops, vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen catapults himself into the arms of the audience in the first of countless stage dives made by the frontman during this evening. The atmosphere is thus dialled to festive from the very beginning of the show, helped along by the band’s hyper melodic classic rock and extreme metal concoctions such as the following “Crack of Doom”, which has the finger picking guitarist Bjarte Lund Rolland filling in for Troy Sanders on the clean vocals. In best Kvelertak style, both stage and crowd transform into a maelstrom of action, with all six musicians tirelessly exerting themselves, surging toward the stage edge, and allowing people to sing along in the choruses by virtue of Nikolaisen extending his microphone stand across the barrier. There is a constant wild moshpit operating in the centre, one that, as mentioned, possesses Nikolaisen to leave the stage at every opportunity to be embraced by the band’s southern Swedish fanbase left ravenous by the more than two years of waiting for this concert to finally happen. The f**k work anthem that is “Bruane Brenn” off the band’s 2013 outing “Meir” even inspires one fan to storm the stage itself, catching Nikolaisen in an embrace before making his own successful attempt at a stage dive.

Given that Nikolaisen only sings on the aforementioned “Splid”, the band’s setlist for tonight is of course heavily focused on that album. And when an absolutely raging rendition of “Ulvetid” (taken from their self-titled début album) arrives as the sixth track, one can tell there is more affinity for the band’s earlier material amongst the audience gathered here; it feels as though all this energy that has been pent up for two years gets released in one explosive eruption, the six musicians feeding off the rowdiness on the floor to put on one of the most intense performances I have witnessed by Kvelertak yet. The band does wisely to follow it up with an equally storming take on “Blodtørst”, which has the crowd chanting the lead melody as though it were Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark”, pumping their fists as bassist Marvin Nygaard balances on the crowd barrier during the track’s brawling, piano-laced finale. “For two long years the border between our countries has been closed”, roars Nikolaisen in the break that ensues. “We have not been able to buy cheap alcohol or meat! We have not been allowed to cross over!” he laments, understanding and sharing in our longing to experience these kinds of restriction-free, high-energy concerts again. Indeed, even the more relaxed, classic guitar rock stylings of “1985” (the only track to be played from 2016’s “Nattesferd” tonight) thus incite a detonating reaction, with the six musicians rocking out on the multitude of platforms built onto the stage in clear view of the boiling moshpit. “This is SO f**king exhilarating”, I think to myself — and I am definitely not alone in feeling it.

The iconic love song to the Scandinavian alcoholic drink mead, “Mjød”, earns a thunderous sing-along before the ordinary set is brought to conclusion by an impassioned, trident guitar solo, after which the audience starts chanting “Kve-ler-tak! Kve-ler-tak!" in an attempt to draw them back to the stage. Our demand is of course obliged, though instead of emerging from backstage, one of the guitarists (possibly Maciek Ofstad?) emerges from the bar, using the counter as a platform to launch himself into a crowd surf through the entire venue before ending back among his compatriots, ripping out riffs as he goes, naturally. As has become the band’s tradition by now, the encore ends with the eponymous “Kvelertak”, which sees Nikolaisen waving a flag with their famous owl mascot that is so big it is probably scratching paint off the ceiling. One more dive into the crowd by the raucous frontman and the concert winds to a triumphant close, leaving us all with wide grins and sweat dripping down our faces from another fantastic performance by these Norwegian rabble rousers.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. Rogaland
  • 2. Crack of Doom
  • 3. Bruane Brenn
  • 4. Necrosoft
  • 5. Fanden ta dette hull!
  • 6. Ulvetid
  • 7. Blodtørst
  • 8. 1985
  • 9. Ved bredden av Nihil
  • 10. Mjød
  • 11. Bråtebrann

— Encore —

  • 12. Discord
  • 13. Kvelertak

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