My Oh Meir: Kvelertak Fall Into the Sophomore Slump
“Bruane Brenn,” the first single from Kvelertak’s new album, Meir, is a great song that serves as a potent reminder as to why we all fell so madly for these Norwegians two years ago. It’s basically a simple, straightforward, totally catchy punk rock song, with a massive, ridiculously catchy anthem of a chorus, some sweet-ass classic rock leads, and enough piss n’ vinegar to do whatever it is you could do if you had a lot of piss n’ vinegar.
If the other ten songs on Meir were this good, the album might not be such a massive letdown. Instead, only two of them are.
The problem with Meir really can be summed up that simply: the songs are, by and large, just not that good. And they’re not good in the most painful way: they’re almost good. There are many near-hits on the album, all of which start out with suitably bar-fighterttific riffs and often feature totally epic (and, in the case of “Månelyst,” positively shredtastic) lead guitars, and, at least in his performance, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik has as much verve as he did on the band’s self-titled release. But then the tracks come to a grinding halt with choruses and digressions that are forgettable at best and ill-conceived at worst.
The build-up during album opener “Åpenbaring” is awesome, exactly the kind of aural foreplay you want — but it takes up nearly two-thirds of the track. The song really just feels like it’s getting started when it ends; what feels like the beginning of a killer guitar solo kicks in, but then concludes abruptly, leaving the listener with some serious aural blueballs, and then the song is over. The chorus of “Spring Fra Livet” was, I assume, meant to sound massive, but it really just sounds busy, and structurally, it’s a plateau. It lacks both the simple beauty and primal, almost tribal elements that made Kvelertak so kick-ass.
The songs that are the most frustrating, though, are the ones that had the potential to expand Kvelertak’s sound while staying true to their raucous spirit. For eighteen glorious seconds, the otherwise daydream-inducing “Snilepisk” focuses on a Middle Eastern-sounding riff that could metal’s answer to the score from Lawrence of Arabia. Despite a pretty decent main riff, “Nekrokosmos” seems to be going nowhere fast when suddenly, at the 1:49 mark, it breaks out a psychedelic blackened mathcore section that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s over twenty-two seconds later, and the song never really recovers.
Only “Evig Vandrar” and “Kvelertak” (yup, they pulled a Living Colour) stand beside “Bruane Brenn” as a song worthy of the Kvelertak that made, well, Kvelertak. The latter is excellently AC/DC-esque, while the former is It’s The Allman Brothers by way of Motörhead. The choice to use a an army of marching boots instead of a vocal line during what might otherwise be considered the chorus seems odd initially, but ends up be pretty great. I am being 100% sincere when I say that I can’t wait to stomp along with this song the next time I see Kvelertak live.
Alas, barely an EP’s worth of great material does not a fun LP make, and near Meir‘s conclusion, there’s at least one song — the nearly nine-minute “Todenbrak” — that’s an outright slog to get through. It’s the only song on the album that I might categorize as outright “bad.” Because for the most part, Meir isn’t really bad, and it certainly gets better with multiple listens. But if this wasn’t the same band that made Kvelertak, I’m not sure anyone would give it those multiple listens in the first place.