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Black n roll, Hardcore punk, Heavy metal


A versatile Norwegian heavy metal outfit, Kvelertak’s Valhalla party anthems draw as heavily from sources like punk, NWOBHM, hardcore, and classic rock as they do traditional, larynx-shredding Scandinavian black metal. Emerging in 2010 with their acclaimed eponymous debut, the band wasted little time in taking over the airwaves of their homeland. After securing multiple Spellemannprises (the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award), Kvelertak set their sights elsewhere, with 2013’s Meir, 2016’s Nattesferd and 2020’s Splid finding favor with European and American audiences as well.

The self-described “black ‘n’ roll” sextet Kvelertak (“Chokehold”) formed in 2007 in Stavanger, Norway’s third-biggest city and home to several popular gothic metal bands. Kvelertak’s sound could not have been more different, however. Fusing the raw punk ‘n’ roll sound pioneered by the likes of Turbonegro with the harsh, shrieking fury of black metal was not a new idea — it had already been done with great success by fellow Norwegians Satyricon — but this was arguably the first time it had been attempted by a band of “regular guys” not already grounded in the black metal idiom. An early demo, Westcoast Holocaust, and steady touring earned them a devoted fan base, and in 2010 they released their eponymous debut album.

Recorded by Converge’s Kurt Ballou and released by Oslo’s Indie Recordings (and later by the End in the US), Kvelertak was a surprise global hit, with its lyrics all in Norwegian. Critics praised the band’s sledgehammer sound and the freshness in their mash-up of genres, and the album went gold, giving the group two Spellemann Awards (the Norwegian Grammys) and leading to a deal with Sony Music in Scandinavia and massive metal factory Roadrunner in the rest of the world, opening them up to a global audience. Their second album, Meir (“More”), was released in 2013 and was another critical and commercial hit, despite some controversy over its cover art by influential American artist John Dyer Baizley (of the band Baroness) — of a naked mother-goddess figure spattered with bird droppings. Early 2016 saw the release of the fiery singles “1985” and “Berserkr,” with the band’s third studio long-player, Nattesferd, dropping later that May. The LP drew near-universal critical acclaim and helped land the band a pair of high-profile opening tour slots with Metallica and Ghost. In 2018, longtime vocalist Erlend Hjelvik announced that he would be leaving Kvelertak to pursue other projects. Ivar Nikolaisen, an occasional backing vocalist and close friend of the band, officially joined the group in 2019, and made his studio debut on their fourth full-length effort, 2020’s Splid.