Sometimes it’s the dumbest things that cause you the most stress.

When I was younger, dumber, and usually a whole lot drunker, choosing a playlist at a house party was so much easier. For one thing, college kids are usually more open to experiences and surroundings that they might not be all that familiar with, so they might be more willing to give whatever bullshit you throw in the mix a chance. Also, everyone was either wasted, or on their way towards being, so no one was really paying attention anyway and it really didn’t fucking matter.

The problem is, I’m old now. I have a wife, who is not a metalhead. Her friends are not metalheads. And although we might not rage the way we once did in our younger days, my wife and I do throw the occasional get-together, with her and her non-metalhead friends, and me and my metal-friendly cohorts. And because we’re ALL old and have certain responsibilities, we’ve replaced general blackout-drunk fuckery with a more restrained, pleasant buzziness that means we’re mostly cognizant and aware of our surroundings.

So what is one to do to make the right playlist in order to make sure everyone is happy and having a good time? It’s a lot of pressure!

Well, Norway’s Kvelertak is here to provide a happy medium, and they’re certainly no strangers to a good party.

This too, is a band that over the years has settled into a more restrained, focused version of their former selves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like longtime fans listening to Splid are going to wonder who these guys are – it’s still definitively Kvelertak – but they’ve continued to smooth the edges and expand their already considerable list of influences, albeit to varying degrees of success.

Album opener “Rogaland” personifies the band’s growth perfectly. While prior albums have traditionally gotten off to much more raucous and immediate starts, this one takes it’s time. After a dreamy, prolonged intro of layered guitars, the drums and bass kick in to intensify the build further, before vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen comes screaming in. But while I was expecting that to kickstart something with a little more heft, the band instead moves along with more of a straight-up rock & roll swagger akin to countrymates Turbonegro’s more recent efforts. Throw in a melodic chorus, and some Thin Lizzy-inspired leads, and we’re off to a fun start.

The band enlists some star power on “Crack of Doom,’ with a guest appearance from Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, who supplies a really fun, memorable chorus and couple of verses. The track also introduces a new elements into the mix: Piano! I’m not talking grandiose, Fleshgod Apocalypse piano concertos here, I’m talking a simple, Andrew W.K. “Party Hard”like pianos that just add an upbeat, festive element that fits really well here. Metal and punk need more pianos!

For those looking for the Kvelertak that throws in little black metal flourishes here and there, “Necrosoft” is the song you’re looking for. After a driving, dense punk rock riff gets the track started (with more pianos!), Kvelertak launches into a tremolo-picked, blast beating fury that reintroduces some of that familiar piss n’ vinegar into the fold. Another catchy chorus, and some inspiring, post-rocky choruses make this one of the albums stronger tracks.

After a couple more really solid tracks, including highlights “Bratebrann” and my personal favorite, “Uglas Hegemoni,” the album’s tone takes a bit of a downturn. The noticeably moodier “Fanden ta dette hull!” blends a nice mix of AC/DC riffs and more of those sweet little Thin Lizzy licks, but delivered with a more serious tone. 4 minutes into the track though, out of goddamn nowhere, the band launches into a monster, all-out thrash attack that would feel right at home on Kill ‘Em All or Hell Awaits. It’s a little out of left field, but they make it work pretty well, interweaving some of their more traditional elements to the frenzy that make it a thoroughly Kvelertak moment on the album.

For all of the new elements that are successful, there are a few duds mixed in. “Tevling” is a weird, awkward pop rock tune, calling Rick Springfield or even Fountains of Wayne to mind. I’m probably more forgiving than a lot of metalheads when it comes to bands bringing catchy pop elements to their sound, but this is really so far out of place that I just can’t find a way to really justify it making the record. “Delerium Tremens,” on the other hand, does a much finer job of balancing the mix between catchy and melodic with their more aggressive side. Throughout the 8+ minutes of the track, the band really kind of runs the whole gamut of what makes the band so unique, and really showcases the band performing at it’s best.

I can’t say this is necessarily my favorite release from these genre-bending Norse, but it does fill a very unique need for me. Next time I’m hosting a party and I’m tasked with providing the soundtrack, I’m pretty confident that this is an album that will provide a little something for everyone. My friends and I can do a little headbanging, and my wife and her friends won’t be overly annoyed.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
March 2nd, 2020


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