A couple of years ago, Revolver reviewed the self-titled debut by Norway’s Kvelertak for this website and gave it a rather average rating; our feeling was that the album’s brand of muscle rock-cum-black metal was overhyped and needed discipline. Over time, though, the rambunctious tone of the record grew on us, leaving us, like many, interested in what the band would do next. And on Kvelertak’s much-awaited sophomore album, Meir, the band has spun off in many fascinating new directions. Bizarre and multi-faceted, Meir sacrifices the band’s fist-pumping classic-rock gallop in return for a progressive, and endlessly interesting, break in form.
What makes the album unexpectedly enthralling is how little it conforms to the formula to which so many would love Kvelertak to adhere—big riff, chorus, bridge with awesome lead, back again. Opener “Apenbaring” starts with traditionally tasty lead, but is more of a prelude, the song itself lasting about as long as its intro. “Spring Fra Livet” showcases bright, blast beat-laden choruses that seem to reside where Rush meet Liturgy. “Trepan” and “Nekrokosmos” are as kvlt as the band has ever sounded, utilizing crushing riffs, throttling percussion, and creepily droned choruses to infuse them with genuine Scandinavian darkness. Meanwhile, tracks like “Braune Brenn” and “Evig Vandrar” pack that big stomping torque the band is known for. Some tracks, like “Manelyst” and “Snilepisk,” are slightly interchangeable, but even the band’s name-check song (that’s right—it’s called "Kvelertak") at the end is damn entertaining, just not predictable.
This record may get savaged; something this different from a previous hit has little choice but to get murdered by fans feeling betrayed. But screw them—Meir rules. It’s weird, it’s creepy, it’s unstable, but man, there’s art here, something that few bands can boast. On their debut, Kvelertak were a riot; here, they’re a storm. CHRIS KROVATIN