Ten Years Ago, Kvelertak Made Us Take Notice with Meir
I still remember walking into the local record shops that still thankfully exist in South Philly and seeing the beautiful cover of Kvelertak’s Meir prominently featured with the new releases. Thanks to its trippy array of birds, a ram’s head, and a woman doing who-knows-what was an unmistakable piece of art by John Baizley. Being a dedicated fan of Baizley’s band Baroness, I initially thought they might have put out a surprise record, but what I actually had in my hands was the second album from the Norwegian band that few in North America could pronounce at the time, Kvelertak.
I will admit (and feel free to pull my street cred card now) that I was late to the party with Kvelertak. In 2013 I was really into only “trve kvlt” black metal, which led to me passing over these guys. I was still seeking music that sounded like Immortal’s Blizzard Beasts as I literally made my way across Norway in the beyond-freezing Winter of that year. But my good friend, Vivek Venkatesh couldn’t stop talking about this band and how he loved how the Stavenger natives were able to blend the heavy rock of the 1970’s with their unique take on more modern black metal.
As I read more and more about the band, I gave Meir listen. It immediately grabbed me. For one, it did actually sound a bit like Baroness, and second, it has perhaps one of the best opening tracks in modern heavy rock. “Apenbaring” draws you right in and then takes your breath away. That guitar tone layered on top of an intense bassline that immediately gets your foot tapping away at the floor. And then right when you’re really getting into it all, it ends abruptly and you’re left clamoring for more.
Luckily, just as “Apenbaring” ends you hear the Tom G. Warrior-like “Ooogh!” and the second track, “Spring Fra Livet” smacks you right in the face. With Erlend Hjelvik’s throaty, punk-inspired vocal and those dueling guitar leads, you just can’t let this track go. It’s the blending and bridging of the black metal with the hardcore and with the Thin Lizzy style riffs that just saturates the listener with swagger and sweat that make these songs timeless. But you already know this.
In terms of what Meir leaves us with in the context of the global metal scene, the album and Kvelertak as a whole really opened up black metal to a greater acceptance of diversity of sound. While so many were disappointed with Norwegian black metal bands like Satyricon for evolving their sound and songwriting in the early 2000’s to more of a black and roll aesthetic, many got angry.
Kvelertak, however, came out not only unscathed but fervently embraced. As I recall at Oslo’s Inferno Festival in 2013, the band seemed to appeal to people from all walks of life who were into heavier music. Even for those black metal fans who were skeptical, one listen to the fast tremolo guitars in “Trepan” seemed to convince them otherwise.
Meir is a more stripped down and back-to-basics album compared to the band’s debut. It was a record that was fun while straddling a scene known for “no fun, no friends.” That, overall, might be the reason this record stands out so much. It’s a catchy bunch of songs that makes you feel good. Sometimes it’s okay to feel good. That’s the legacy here.
Now, what I really want to know is this – what happened to all the kids in the “Bruane Brenn” video and how did such great sound out of those wood block instruments?