Written by: AP on 03/08/2010 23:08:43

Kvelertak, Norwegian for stranglehold, belongs in the esteemed group of bands actively sanctioned by members of Converge; a breeding ground for promising, unique bands from which the fiercely independent hardcore heroes hand pick support bands for their tours. Other notable names in this honored position include Coliseum, Gaza, Integrity, Kylesa and Rise and Fall, all of whom have something a little different to offer in hardcore terms. Naturally it follows that Kvelertak, too, differs from the general prospectus and how, for there isn't another band around that blends hardcore punk with black metal and rock n' roll.

It was with skepticism that I first approached Kvelertak's self-titled debut album, but the fact that Converge approves usually assures that the music worth checking out. And it is with a sense of awakening that I now spin the album on repeat, jaw bone against the floor, wondering how something so absurd can sound so brilliant. On the surface of it the formula looks pretty simple and uninteresting, as Kvelertak's music largely revolves around a breakneck tempo with pounding drums and loud vocals ensuring that the hardcore punk proposition stays true. But with three guitarists' worth of six-string power, the band also ensures that the sound remains both pleasantly melodic and extremely dense, and that the riffs come in such a variety of styles that it is impossible to become bored. There are bleak, tremolo picked riffs in the best black metal fashion showcased early on "Ulvetid" and crushing power chords displayed on the likes of "Fossegrim" that make the clear influence of black metal apparent, tempered by far more melodic sections in songs like the hard-rocking black n' roll pieces "Blodtørst", "Offernat", and "Sjøvhyenar (Havets Herrer)". Then there's songs like "Sultans of Satan" which sports an instantly memorable chorus, despite being sung in Norwegian, and breaks down halfway into a groove-driven jam accompanied by psychedelic guitar leads reminiscent of Black Sabbath.

Indeed, homage to classic acts is a predominant theme throughout Kvelertak's music. Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik opts to sing using a high-pitched, nihilistic howl in the vein of classic Norwegian black metal bands Darkthrone and Mayhem. On the other hand, he sings entirely in his native tongue, perhaps making Kvelertak ironically more indifferent to international attention than most of these black metal precursors vowed to be. Instrumentally the classic black metal influence can best be heard in the songs "Nekroskop", "Liktorn" and the already mentioned "Ulvetid". There are guest appearances to be found here too, with Ryan McKenney (Trap Them), Roger "Natteforst" Rasmussen (Carpathian Forest), Andreas Tylden (JR Ewing), Ivar Nikolaisen (Silver) and Ulvhedin Høst (Taake) providing additional vocals and other niceties in a number of songs and thus adding further variation - without outshining Mr. Hjelvik himself of course. And let's not forget the artwork, which has John Baizley's (Baroness) signature all over it, nor the production, handled by the ubiquitous Kurt Ballou (Converge).

So while this review may not be as riddled with metaphors, similes and superlatives as some of the other reviews with my signature on them, you should be able to derive that Kvelertak is not some run-of-the-mill band. The music is intense and intriguing, but it also bears all the hallmarks of a band that is clearly having boatloads of fun playing their music. From the drumroll and gang shout of "Kvelertak!" that opens "Ulvetid" to the glorious, melodic, and uplifting acoustic outro of "Utrydd dei svake", Kvelertak's self-titled debut album is a hidden treasure; an immensely enjoyable experience for fans of rock n' roll, hardcore, punk and black metal alike. As such I expect no protest when I award "Kvelertak" candidacy as one of the albums of the year.


Download: Ulvetid, Fossegrim, Blodtørst, Offernat, Nekroskop
For the fans of: Black Breath, Darkthrone, Doomriders, Turbonegro
Listen: Myspace

Release date 05.07.2010
Indie Recordings

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