On their new, third album, Nattesferd, Kvelertak is less “Kvelertak-y” than they’ve ever been. John Dyer Baizley’s cover artwork? Gone. Kurt Ballou’s production? That’s out, too. In most cases, the band’s even done away with the blast-beat driven aggression that’s driven their black ‘n’ roll / hardcore sound since its inception. But if you’re worried the bottom’s completely dropped out, lighten up. At the end of the day, the Norwegians still know how to write a fun song, and they show that regularly on Nattesferd. It’s not a great album, but it’s certainly not a bad one either.
And that actually comes as a bit of a surprise after having heard the lead single, “1985,” a couple of months back. Let’s not mince words: the song’s probably the weakest in Kvelertak’s entire catalogue. It’s a ham-fisted attempt at a classic rock sound, one that swaps the band’s infamous bite for mid-tempo chug and Thin Lizzy-esque major-interval harmonies. To its credit, the song does work a bit better in the context of the album than it did as a single, but it’s still Nattesferd‘s weakest link by some distance.
Fortunately, that’s the only song among the album’s first six that’s anything less than a blast. An upbeat song like “Bronsegud” recalls the band’s earliest, quickest-hitting sonic attacks — at just under three minutes long, it really only has time to get in, kick the listener’s ass, and get out, but it does just that, with tremendous results. But then, you’ll get a song like “Svartmesse,” which turns an “Edge of Seventeen”-esque opening groove into a headbang-worthy ascending chorus riff. At times, it feels like Kvelertak could throw any possible kind of shit at you — no matter how big a departure from their “traditional” sound — and it’d find a way to stick.
So what’s holding Nattesferd back? There are problems with pacing throughout — from an overly-long intro on the title track, to an overly-long outro on “Dendrofil for Yggdrasil.” Unfortunately, not everything comes together quite so smoothly as that first handful of songs. “Berserkr” starts off with a frenetic burst of riffage, but then jumps off a cliff during its second half; to call the song merely “disjointed” wouldn’t do it justice. The album also closes on a bum note, as “Nekrodamus” takes a blues-influenced riff and turns it into…honestly, not all that much. It’s kind of a toothless song, and one that feels much longer than its not-quite-five-minute run time.
For the most part, though, there’s a good bit of fun to be had with Nattesferd. Erlend Hjelvik still snarls with the best, and the band still serves up a set of songs that, for their occasional shortcomings, should still go down well in a live setting. And really, that’s the best way to experience Kvelertak anyway.
Keep it heavy,