Published May 11, 2016For all their extraordinary success, Norway's eclectic hybrid metal experimenters Kvelertak have found themselves under a great deal of aesthetic scrutiny. They turned lead into gold with their first self-titled record, blending everything from black metal textures to fat, classic hard rock riffs to hardcore punk structures, a musical-alchemical feat that led to a meteoric rise. Their follow-up album, Meir, maintained the same winning formula, perhaps even further refined and clarified, and while the magic trick still worked, it lost the miraculous feel of their first successful attempt.
It's harsh, maybe unfair criticism to pick on a band for doing something extraordinarily well more than once, but that is exactly what happened; now, with third album Nattesferd, you can feel them reacting to that pressure. Working neither with Kurt Ballou in the studio nor John Baizley for artwork (instead turning to Nick Terry and Arik Roper, respectively), Kvelertak are clearly trying to shake up the details, if not the overall standard and structure, of their work. Where Meir felt like their debut, continued — the second half of a double record — Nattesferd is clearly, conceptually unique. There's a more classic-feeling, slightly less chaotic sound here, with soaring clean vocals leading the choruses and the kind of infectious riffs that seem both timeless and crisp.
There's a ton of wild, riotous energy to Nattesferd, but it's a little more cleanly delineated rather than roped together and blurred around the edges. It's a shake-up rather than a clear evolution, but it's a productive one. (Roadrunner)