SXSW METAL REPORT, DAY 2: KVELLING OVER KVELERTAK
[Read my Day One recap here. -Ed.]
If Kvelertak aren’t rich men by the time they release their next album they’ll have seriously blown it. Based solely on the power of their incredible live performances at SXSW, the first of which took place Thursday afternoon inside Emo’s at the annual MS-sponsored Full Metal Texas event, these six Norwegians had major U.S. record labels drooling, kissing the ground they walk on, drinking their piss, shoveling poop down their own throats and throwing gobs of money at them. Expect a major bidding war to erupt over Kvelertak; it’ll be interesting to see where their next album lands. But the truth is, it’s all deserved; Kvelertak RIPPED. Video after the jump!
Day 2 of SXSW also featured the live debut of T.R.A.M., an improvizational jazz/metal supergroup featuring Animals as Leaders’ Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes, Suicidal Tendencies drummer Eric Moore, and former Mars Volta saxophone player Adrian Terrazas at the WSOU showcase (along with Ultrageist and Meek is Murder). We also caught performances by Goes Cube, Yob and The Red Chord at Full Metal Texas.
Here’s how I’d describe what it’s like to see Kvelertak live to anyone who hasn’t yet had the privilege: “like Valient Thorr, but with better songs.” Kvelertak have that same undeniable, uncontrollable energy as the Thorr. They’re constantly bursting at the seams, exploding with power, rocking out to the max and inspiring the staunchest of headbangers to pump a fist in the air, and frontman Erlend Hjelvik kinda reminds me of Valient Himself with his scraggly beard, less-than-rock-solid physique and insatiable stage presence. As you well know from all the raving we’ve done about their self-titled album for nearly a year now, they’ve got songs that hold up on record. And riffs… and riffs… and catchy-as-hell riffs, for miles and miles and miles. And that’s what’s got U.S. record execs head over heels in love with this band. They’re that rare band whose songs are so good they might even have that much sought-after “crossover potential.” But you never get the impression it’s anything but pure honesty that drives these guys day in and day out; it’s all legit. Kvelertak’s live show draws you in and makes you a part of it, like a magnet (how do they work?); if not for a bad back I surely would’ve ended up in the moshpit. Last time I did that? Valient Thorr.
From Emo’s we headed over to the lofty Venue 222 where metal radio mainstays WSOU were doling out free domestic brews along with their metal. Meek is Murder (whose album is out today!) delivered a typically tight and spastic set, despite the luxury of an actual stage as opposed to the basements and floors on which they’re accustomed to grinding. Bassist Sam Brodsky didn’t know quite what to do with himself without audience members directly in front of him to run into, but the trio turned quite a few heads in the room with their brief but powerful set.
Long Island’s Ultrageist followed with their second SXSW performance, and fortunately the sound was much better than yesterday’s Sumerian Records showcase support. These dudes are students of all things prog, are incredibly adept at their instruments and have the live stage show chops to back it up. I enjoyed their willingness to experiment outside the confines of standard song structures but sometimes found myself thinking they strayed a little too far; with players this good there’s got to be a happy medium between chops/proggy stuff/awesomeness and hooky/catchy songs; I’m sure these dudes have it in them. The vocalist’s mic is hooked up to a pedal-board full of voice-altering doo-dads he controls from the stage; at times I thought to myself “woah, that’s awesome,” while at other times I found myself wishing he’d just sing (he’s got an amazing clean singing voice FWIW).
Up next… the live debut of T.R.AM.! Much like with any Animals as Leaders performance, music nerds assembled in front of the stage and stared intently at the musicians’ hands throughout the entirety of the show. With a band like this you know anyone there went out of their way to attend was was STOKED to be there; I highly doubt any casual T.R.A.M. fans exist or will ever exist. Their show was positively mesmerizing. Barely metal, but positively mesmerizing. The material was by and large improvisational, with loose song structures laid out in advance within which each member — and a guest female ambient vocalist whose name, I’m very sorry, escapes me — was free to improvise during his or her allotted section. This is musicians’ music for musicians… laymen need not apply. Truth be told, I couldn’t even follow along 100% of the time but I did my best and enjoyed the fuck out of it all. Drummer Eric Moore is an absolute groove-machine — a textbook finesse drummer — and saxophonist Adrian Terrazas served as the “lead” man most of the time, his saxophone, oboe and flute (!) lines penetrating the band’s sound the way a vocalist would in a traditional rock band setup.
Following the implosion of our feeble minds, we headed back to Full Metal Texas at Emo’s to catch Yob and The Red Chord’s respective headlining performances on the indoor and outdoor stages. Yob’s epic stoney doom penetrated our innards and made us feel 10x more stoned than we already were while The Red Chord… were nowhere to be seen. It was looking grim with the impending venue curfew of 6pm (to set up for the night show), but when I saw a drum rack being hoisted onto the stage at 5:30 I knew we’d at least get a brief Red Chord pummeling. During an abbreviated 20 minute set, The Red Chord did what The Red Chord do best; simultaneously annihilate and mock the adoring audience.
This guy’s aching back needed a little rest time following the day’s activities and Kip W. was saying something about being hungry, so instead of seeing Agalloch that night (we’ll see them here in NYC tonight) I opted for delicious, meaty, juicy pork tacos courtesy of Palazios. We were able to rally in time to catch Trail of Dead at 1am, and I’m sure they were quite good, but honestly I was tired, drunk, and my mind was elsewhere.
Tomorrow, in Day 3 coverage: our very own South By South Death show with Kvelertak, Havok, Red Fang, Wormrot and Meek is Murder, followed by…. Chrome-E-Oh… Ohhhhh Oh!