March 10, 2020


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A lot has changed in the Kvelertak camp since their last full-length Nattesferd.  In addition to changing their vocalist and drummer the band has changed record labels as well, moving from Roadrunner to Rise Records.  Lineup shifts of this scale can sometimes fundamentally alter a group’s sound for better or worse, but with their fourth album Splid they’ve proven that the core of Kvelertak remains intact.  There’s still equal amounts of metal, rock ‘n roll, and punk all rolled up into an effort that’s diverse and fun to listen to, giving listeners plenty of catchy hooks and surprising instrumentation over its close to hour run time.  It’s everything one could want from this band some thirteen years after their formation, and if this is a sign of what’s still to come version 2.0 of Kvelertak will prove to be just as exciting as the first.

Compared to many of their peers, there’s always been something a bit more fun and catchier to what these guys were doing, and this holds true throughout Splid.  The instrumentals regularly shift between heavy music genres, moving from rock ‘n roll leads to edgier punk riffs and even a healthy dose of thrash and black metal when you least expect it.  Kvelertak’s always fundamentally been a rock band, albeit one that was run through Norway’s extreme metal influences, and with songs like “Delirium tremens” that move from second-wave black metal blasting and some progressive rock style melodies with straight up rock ‘n roll thrown in the middle they merge all of these influences better than ever before.  That all may sound like a lot to take in, but Splid handles it in a way that emphasizes hooks over the impenetrable complexity that other bands go for and as a result there are plenty of sections to each song that will grab you immediately and make you want to hit the repeat button.  Individually a lot of these elements may feel familiar, as there are sections that remind me of AC/DC, The Police, and plenty of Norwegian black metal, but they always come together into a mixture that feels fresh and fun.  Despite the eleven songs coming in at almost an hour in length none of the tracks ever feel bloated or repetitive and there’s not any filler to be had, which is quite an impressive achievement.

Erlend Hjelvik left the group in 2018 and was replaced by Ivar Nikolaisen from The Good, The Bad and The Zugly who proves to be a suitable replacement.  Compared to Hjelvik his vocals are a bit higher in pitch and give off even more of a punk vibe, with the screams hitting higher ranges that have an appropriately abrasive edge and quite a bit of swagger behind them.  It’s a different sound for Kvelertak that is immediately noticeable from the beginning of Splid, but once you’ve gotten through a few songs you’ll start to appreciate how well he gels with what the rest of the band is doing.  The rest of the group still provides backing vocals on quite a few of the songs which results in sung passages and choruses that come through as absolutely huge with multiple members singing or screaming at the same time.  Some people may have been concerned when there was a vocalist switch but it’s clear that Kvelertak has made the best replacement they possibly could and found someone that suits not only their musical influences but the level of intensity they want to bring to the table.

There’s a lot to be said for an album that channels just about every aspect of extreme metal, punk, and rock ‘n roll and does it in a cohesive and catchy manner that will draw in listeners who are fans of every end of the spectrum.  It recaptures some of the hooks of the first album where it felt like there was one catchy riff after another while pushing the band further outwards towards territory they hadn’t explored as in-depth before.  Kvelertak’s latest hasn’t left my stereo since the promo first came through, and it’s a triumphant return for a band that has gone through some significant changes and come back even stronger.  Splid is available from Rise Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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