If you’ve been lucky enough to catch Metallica this week then chances are you’ve been blown away by support band Kvelertak. HRH Mag scrutinised the noisy Norwegians in between gigs with the biggest metal band on the planet.
It’s a canny move by Kvelterak. Maintain the momentum. Keep the pot boiling. Deliver a longer set and play to even more people. They say there’s no rest for the wicked so no wonder the Stavangar six-piece chose to play a clutch of sold-out club dates on their nights off from Metallica’s UK arena tour. They don’t come much more wicked than Kvelertak right now.
Even so, the contrast between back-to-back shows couldn’t have been much greater: it’s unlikely Newcastle’s cosy Think Tank? could accommodate Metallica’s guest list from the previous evening’s shindig at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena.
But all Kvelertak really need is a stage, some lights and a sea of bald heads and long beards. And as soon as Erlend Hjelvik set eyes on another full house it mattered little that Metallica’s massive backline was nowhere to be seen and his band was squeezed into a space barely big enough to contain Lars Ulrich’s bass drum.
This was a Kvelertak crowd. And that made all of the difference in the world.
Opening up with the glorious Äpenbaring, from 2013’s majestic Meir, there was no chance that the Norwegians would ease themselves into a 90-minute masterclass in alternative rock. Instant gratification for the fans – and an immediate adrenaline rush for the band – confirmed the maelstrom of metal to come.
A gut-busting version of Bruane Brenn hinted at what would be a relentless, rabid assault on the senses with Hjelvik unconcerned with small talk and mid-set banter. This was all about the music and there was lots of it: heavy, uncompromising, genre-defying and dark.
Even in the cramped Tank it was possible to isolate each performer and assess his personal contribution. Kvelertak’s triple guitar threat – think classic Lizzy on steroids – has the potential to muddy an already cluttered mix but here it was crisper than a Scandinavian winter. Hjelvik just about held his own and a rhythm section capable of bulldozing the sound desk with one errant beat stayed fully focused as the driving force behind a very special band.
Nattesferd and 1985 might have caused the critics to sneer 12 months ago – both songs prompted preposterous claims that Kvelertak were somehow selling out – but live their ferocity is there for all to see…and feel. The latter, in particular, proved itself a highlight on a night when nothing was left to chance.
A brutal rendition of Blodtørst signalled the end of the main set but there was more. As the final chords of Kverlertak rang out across Times Square, Hjelvik and co. looked less like Metallica’s support act and more like the band most likely to usurp James Hetfield and co. in years to come.