Kvelertak are doing something right. For an album that hadn’t even been released in the US until now, their self-titled full-length has garnered acclaim the world over, from it’s two Grammy nominations in the band’s native Norway to its inclusion on a whole lot of the extreme-metal press’ Best-of-2010 lists. All this, and the band doesn’t even sing in English. Yet for all the hype surrounding it, Kvelertak is a solidly average album, a record with all the pieces that make up a masterpiece and no idea where to put them.
In the first three tracks, “Ulvetid,” “Mjod,” and the enthusiastic “Fossegrim,” Kvelertak make their influences and intentions known, straddling the thin line between Black Sabbath and Bathory, with healthy doses of Turbonegro, Torche, and the Crown tossed in. A promising combination, right? From there on, however, every song blends together. There are southern-fried guitar leads and blackened breakdowns aplenty (does this band really need three guitarists?), but none of them stand apart from one another. Vocalist Erieed Hjelvik’s pained cries all sound the same after a while, and when proper close “Utrydd Dei Svake” comes to its banjo-on-piano finish (the album has been release Stateside here with a six bonus live and demo tracks), no specific riff or solo lingers in the listener’s memory. The whole experience is thoroughly enjoyable, but easily forgotten.
To be fair, Kvelertak sound like an badass live band. These songs beg to be performed at high volumes to a packed club full of liquored-up longhairs, because a concert setting is perfect for jamming out to the same guitar antics over and over. But these Norse stoner rockers have miles to go before they slay. The bands whose work so heavily inform this album branded their listeners with their unforgettable sounds. Kvelertak have the fire; they just need the iron. CHRIS KROVATIN