Kvelertak

support Årabrot + Gerilja + Fortress
author AP date 18/10/13 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

What an end to a week, in terms of live music. First: The Dillinger Escape Plan tearing apart Pumpehuset on Thursday; then: Kvelertak inviting us to a booze infused metal ball at Amager Bio. I am here with a group of friends, all as convinced as I am of this band's worth; this band whose meteoric rise to mainstream stardom (despite the extreme foundation of their music) seems never to cease. I am also here with a good 800 to 900 like-minded individuals, and the room is buzzing in anticipation. But first, a surprise act.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Fortress

Rumour has it that, upon stumbling across the Copenhagen born and bred Fortress, Kvelertak hand-picked the quartet to open the proceedings tonight. It's easy to understand why: having seen them multiple times over the past year, they've always managed to woo with their swagger and knack for writing simple, catchy, banging rock'n'roll tunes. They're a good times band, and on a Friday night, beer flowing through my veins galore already, I embrace them as the most apt of the strange support bill Kvelertak have towed with them on this tour. They're fun, their bursting with energy, and the sound mix, courtesy of the always perfectionistic Rasmus Toftelund, is sublime. Fortress receive a warm welcome from their hometown crowd, with songs like "Howl", "Suneater" and the fantastic "Thunderbeast" eliciting a strong headbanging response and loud applause. What I really like about this band is that they don't take themselves too seriously: bare chested and clad in vastly varying length of shorts and pants, with the drummer and two guitarists, known simply as Vildsvinet, Simon and Mr. Sex, especially looking as quirky and deviant as ever and ensuring that Fortress once again strike a perfect balance between humour and heavy riffs.

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Gerilja

Unfortunately not all of Kvelertak's support staff are so impressive. I suppose if I had stolen a peek at Gerilja's Facebook page and witnessed this photo prior to the show, I would have been able to make a fairly accurate guess as to what sort of stylistic territory this trio reside in, but it's just as well to discover it here, through their music, played live. How to describe it... Imagine the most derivative form of heavy and power metal, and then give it a proper raping with space age samples, and you've got what Gerilja sound like. It's so terrible it's not even funny, and combined with a performance completely devoid of nerve, energy and charisma, there isn't much to appreciate here. What Gerilja almost manage is to destroy the jubilant, expectant mood reigning over the venue with what must go down as one of the most anonymous performances I have seen this year.

4

Årabrot

Having won the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award - a Spellemann - ahead of their controversial compatriots Taake, Årabrot at least come with some serious credentials. Their music, too, is strange, albeit in a much more intriguing way than that of Gerilja. It's a curious cocktail of sludge, stoner-punk, noise and extreme metal, offering little refuge for those looking to sing along to catchy songs. They sound, at times, absolutely harrowing, and at other times like the avant-garde black metal group Liturgy (particularly towards the end of the set), and for me personally, it is the latter category of song that impresses me most. But there is one element constantly stoking the wheels of this band: hired keyboard gun Deadly Nightshade (seriously?), also known as Jon Øvstedal. His role seems exclusively to be to stand behind some minute sampling rig picking his nails, wearing pitch black sunglasses and generally looking like an uninterested, and thereby also uninteresting douchebag - the rare injections of sample effectively drowning beneath the low end rumble of Årabrot's guitar and growling (courtesy of lone remaining official member Kjetil Nernes), bass (courtesy of the likewise session musician Kristian Kallevik, alias Sofus K) and drum thunder (courtesy of Vidar Evensen, also known as Marakel). Fortunately Nernes is an excellent frontman, his bison scalp headgear adding a welcome touch of self-irony to the dark and dissonant atmosphere his music evokes. It's interesting, but it's not interesting enough to me to warrant the highest praise.

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Kvelertak

If metal had existed in the Age of the Vikings, then without a doubt our Norse predecessors would have been blasting Amon Amarth on their long and arduous voyage across the North Sea. And when they would arrive, the chieftain would undoubtedly bust out Kvelertak's raucous self-titled album to soundtrack the drinking, raping and pillaging. Indeed, I have come, through careful deliberation, to dub the music of Kvelertak Viking beer metal, and such is the nature of it, when heard live, that you kind of want to grab a horned helmet, wield an axe and throw the nearest missus over your shoulder whilst roaring maniacally and pouring mjød down your throat from a drinking horn.

Tonight is no different. Kvelertak are in a rampant mood, and the enthusiasm with which the crowd receives them, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik wearing his customary stuffed owl - now featuring glowing red eyes also - as a crown as he emerges from backstage enveloped in that epic intro riff of "Åpenbaring" - the first song off this year's "Meir" LP. When the long-winding riff is at last joined by the remaining instruments... well, let's just say I've never seen Amager Bio erupt into such a frenzy. Fueled by the fury and ecstasy of a large contingent of the audience, Kvelertak push themselves to the limit, battering us with bursts of two, sometimes three songs without pause, and with perfectly executed segues between them. Following the posi-black metal of "Spring fra livet"; "Mjød", "Fossegrim" and "Ulvetid" produce an early three-pronged highlight, and maddened by the frenetic headbanging and moshing unfolding before him, Hjelvik leaps into the crowd during the second, surfing nearly the entire capacity of the room whilst bawling lyrics about Vikings, Vikings drinking, Nordic mythology, and Nordic mythological figures drinking.

Kvelertak perform with such urgency, intensity and flair that nigh everyone, bar a slightly skeptical editor-in-chief of ours, seems involved in an imaginary bar brawl taking place at some ancient drinking hall. And although the grizzly, beer-bellied Hjelvik is without a question the centerpiece here, one glance at any of the remaining members - guitarists Bjarte Lund Rolland, Maciek Ofstad and Vidar Landa; bassist Marvin Nygaard, or drummer Kjetil Gjermundrød; all flashing their own insane antics at every turn - betrays the fact that Kvelertak are one of the premier live acts in the world right now, and certainly the best live act in their native Norway. It doesn't hurt either, that the unlikely mix of hardcore punk, black metal, rock'n'roll, sludge and stoner metal in songs like "Bruane Brenn", "Sjøhyenar (Havets herrer)", "Evig Vandrar", "Offernatt", and naturally the ultimate crowd pleaser "Blodtørst", is so goddamn irresistible.

Granted, whilst expending such a ridiculous amount of energy throughout, there are moments, such as during "Nekrokosmos", "Nekroskop" and "Månelyst"; when the band look a little out of breath, resulting in somewhat calmer proceedings (mind you, not musically, given the strong leniancy toward black metal of these two tracks). But these are but minor issues with little effect on the overall impression: that once the banging "Kvelertak" and the colossal "Utrydd dei svake" conclude the evening in grandiose fashion, no one is left wanting. What we've just witnessed is a master class in performance art, and a gleaming example of how simply loving the shit out of doing what you do and expressing it, is the surest recipe for success.

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Setlist:

  • Åpenbaring
  • Spring fra Livet
  • Mjød
  • Fossegrim
  • Ulvetid
  • Bruane Brenn
  • Nekrokosmos
  • Sjøhyenar (Havets herrer)
  • Evig Vandrar
  • Nekroskop
  • Månelyst
  • Offernatt
  • Blodtørst
  • Trepan
  • Kvelertak
  • Utrydd dei Svake

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