One of my favorite genres over the years, which has come into prominence in metal nerd circles recently, has been what some refer to as “black n’ roll”. From the fist pumping athems of Satyricon, to the Satan praising BOC flavor of the almighty Ghost, to the “goth Motorhead” swagger of Tribulation, the fusion of black metal’s dark occultism and classic rock’s foot stomping riff worship never fail to put a smile on my face.
A fresh voice in the movement that’s been gaining a lot of momentum in recent years has been Kvelertak, their Kurt Ballou produced 2013 release “Mier” finding itself on a ton of best of lists at the end of that year. The Norwegian sextet return in 2016 with “Nattesferd”, a stripped down but even more savage yet satisfying take on their rollicking Scandinavian attack. Amon Amarth may have the market cornered on “viking metal”, but Kvelertak tap into an even darker, and still somehow more fun medieval id, like the soundtrack to the most kickass party on the north side of The Wall from Game of Thrones.
“Nattesferd” opens with a blast of icy death called “Dendrofil for Yggdrasil”, a blastbeating, speedpicking ode to sexual attraction for the “life tree” of norse mythology, sort of the reverse of The Black Dahlia Murder’s classic Evil Dead inspired “Raped In Hatred By Vines Of Thorn”. Lead single “1985” is up next, a mid-tempo scorcher where the band’s arena ready triple guitar harmonies gloriously butt heads against the dry throated rasp of vocalist Erlend Hjelvik. This is a black metal track that sounds for all the world like 38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely”. I don’t need to tell you why that’s amazing.
From there the record kicks into high gear, the title track a driving runaway train of awesomeness, and things continue in kind with the blackened darkness of Kvelertak’s corpse painted countrymen coexisting in beautiful, twisted harmony against retro throwback guitar jams calling to mind the best of Journey or Boston. My absolute favorite being the “hey” shout-along head banger “Bronesgud”, and while Ghost’s “Genesis” used to be my “Desperado”, I think the outro to “Berserkr” has taken its place. Seinfeld fans know what I’m talking about.
We’ve prattled on endlessly about our love for the current spate of genre bending experimentation in metal and the blackened stadium rock sorcery on “Nattesferd” is some of the best we’ve heard yet. Here Kvelertak prove that while heavy metal kids mostly like to scream and beat the fuck out of each other in the pit, we can also have just as much fun as anyone else. Maybe even more.