Norway’s Kvelertak filters black metal through a classic-rock lens | Music Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Norway’s Kvelertak filters black metal through a classic-rock lens

There’s something deeply universal about blistering riffs and shout-along choruses

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Kvelertak works best on a visceral level. Sure, the band’s lyrics are unintelligible to most audiences outside of its native Norway, but there’s something deeply universal about blistering riffs and shout-along choruses. A Kvelertak record is brimming with these qualities, and based on its lead single, “1985,” the band’s upcoming Nattesferd might promise an expansion of what it does best.

On 2013’s Meir, the band’s Roadrunner debut, Kvelertak channeled black metal through a reverent rock-history crash course. Despite the literal brutality of “Kvelertak” (it translates to “stranglehold” or “chokehold” in Norwegian), that record carried itself with a lighter touch. These were songs for cruising down the highway, partying hard and keeping it dimed out, but they contained enough classic-rock callbacks for your parents to find something worth latching onto. Kvelertak is the rare metal act to draw comparisons to Thin Lizzy and AC/DC in every single piece written about it (including this one).

Last month, Kvelertak released “1985,” our first glimpse of the band’s third album. In a press release that begins cheekily enough, the band implores us to “think of George Orwell’s 1984 instead of Taylor Swift’s 1989.” But then Kvelertak swerves into Muse-levels of epic paranoia, detailing a “distant future where technology and surveillance have erased all forms of individuality and critical thinking. Needless to say, everything was better before — can someone hit the rewind button already?”

That last sentiment sums up Kvelertak’s modus fairly well. Much like Tame Impala and Sheer Mag, the band casts its gaze backward to a version of rock’s so-called “glory days.” But as every aforementioned act proves, there’s more than one winning method to honor the past and forge a new path forward.


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