For all their good intentions, Kvelertak must know that what they do shouldn’t work. A fusion of classic rock with black metal vocals hardly sounds like the most natural meeting of equals, but somehow, the Norweigians have managed to fluke their way through this far, making two solid albums and a whole load of fans in the process. While it shouldn’t work, they’ve made it work, and they deserve plenty of credit for that. But third album Nattesferd is different in that it not only sees them going full-on classic rock for the most part, but it turns their exciting, subversive sound into a pale imitation of what it once was.
Whereas Kvelertak’s sound could formerly be likened to bands like Thin Lizzy, Nattesferd replaces that with something a lot more in line with someone like Status Quo. It makes this an album that strips back any fire and voracity and in its place sees, for some unknown reason, tepid dad-rock. It’s an album that is almost motionless for its stagnation at points, refusing to pick up or really stir any sort of inspiration or excitement, instead feeling content in embracing it own mid-paced-ness. It’s not a consistently botched decision, and there are some highlights peppered around – opener Dendrofil For Yggdrasil is perhaps the closest throwback to Kvelertak’s former sound in its metallic flurry and galloping drums, and Bronsegud and Berserkr feel a lot more energetic thanks to their increased pace and more concise runtime.
But other than these, Nattesferd feels painfully dated and underwhelming, especially instrumentally, where it plods along more often than it should. 1985 is a prime example in the way it not only limps along, but also sounds incredibly stale and cheesy while doing so, and Nekrodamus feels overly clunky and grainy and subsequently, doesn’t work. It’s frustrating to say the least, especially after seeing what Kvelertak have been capable of in the past – a band with real firepower in their arsenal, now limping along with a dated, shabby sound that would have sounded old-fashioned around thirty-five years ago.
Such a reversion highlights even more of a disparity between the album’s two key components – the vocals and the instrumentation. At their more powerful moments, this was never too much of a problem – Erland Hjelvik’s blackened rasps are able to navigate around the band’s heavier passages. But because these are in such short supply on Nattesferd, they fail to click almost entirely, especially on the lukewarm stiffness of 1985 and the dated Rolling Stones-isms of Svartmesse. It also means that, at points, this album runs way too long; Ondskapens Galakse and Heksebrann feel supremely dragged out with not enough happening in either case to justify it, especially in the latter’s nine minutes.
It really is a shame to see what Kvelertak have become on Nattesferd – a formerly exciting band reduced to a dated pastiche of themselves. This is an album with very little to offer, and gives even less. Too often it feels like too much of a throwback, and even when it does include the band’s more contemporary elements, it feels jarring and difficult to listen to. And most of all, it’s hard to see who this would actually appeal to, if anyone. Hopefully Kvelertak will see the error of their ways next time – if not, they could be in real trouble in a few years’ time.
For fans of: Clutch, Status Quo, Cream
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Nattesferd’ by Kvelertak is out now on Roadrunner Records.