KVELERTAK – Splid
Released: February 14th, 2020
Ivar Nikolaisen | vocals
Marvin Nygaard | bass
Håvard Takle Ohr| drums
Bjarte Lund Rolland | guitars
Maciek Ofstad | guitars and vocals
Vidar Landa | guitars
Brian Johnson, Bruce Dickinson, Henry Rollins and Mike Patton – these names, to any heavy music aficionado, would essentially bring about an underlying theme of Rock royalty. Each vocalist has led arguably some of the most iconic Rock bands throughout history including: AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Black Flag and Faith No More; besides this incredible yet obvious fact, what else do these legendary vocalists and heroic identities have in common? Believe it or not, these are their bands replacement or subsequent voices. They, in fact, replaced an original singer and VERY successfully.
Whilst the aforementioned outfits achieved indescribable feats with a new voice, there is an infinite number of bands who have failed attempting the same manoeuvre and to their unfortunate detriment, faded to obscurity or “once upon a time” or even worse, “they actually did something after the singer left?”, to the very saddening and sometimes expected demise.
Norway’s Kvelertak faced their toughest obstacle in 2018 when founding member and front-man Erlend Hjelvik departed rather amicably from the sextet, but for the remaining five members, this wasn’t a “sink or swim” point in their lifeline; this was to be a new chapter with a new character. However, who could replace the infamous taxidermy owl hat wearing front-man who possibly had a middle name translated as charismatic? (Please let it be known, this writer has no idea what Erlend’s middle name is) Also, please remember Metallica’s own James Hetfield described Mr Hjelvik as “savage” when watching side stage at a Kvelertak gig in San Francisco.
The continuance was not one of question for this Black Metal Hardcore Punk Rock (might be close?) six-piece, far from it. The “Who? How? When?” predicament was almost known and answered thankfully immediately – don’t try to find the replacement, bring in a family member. Ivar Nikolaisen is the new voice and certainly no stranger to the band, his old outfits toured with Kvelertak, he even did guest vocals on ‘Blodtørst’ from their gold certified debut self-titled album. So where does this new album with a new Kvelertak front flag-bearer find one of Norway’s finest modern heavy music exports?
In all honesty, the six-piece have not missed a beat with the 11 tracks that make up full-length number four Splid. In some instances they have never sounded better; Ivar Nikolaisen is a familiar sound to the band, it isn’t a stretch from what Erlend Hjelvik had developed with their original sound – but by no means is it a replica. Kvelertak always had a genius element, bringing in Ivar really solidifies it.
The new LP is by no means a game-changer or a revolution for the sextet or heavy music for that matter, but it is one hell of a ride. There is an abundance of tracks sung and screamed in English encouraging the stadium factor this band were forced into in their early days and deservedly so (Dave Grohl adores Kvelertak) and it would not be a far stretch to think the six-piece will be back on that platform sooner rather than later.
There is a growth undoubtedly, Nattesferd (2016) was almost divisive as it felt confused; by no means an average album, if anything it has brilliance awaiting discovery on every listen – although Splid feels more organic in the sense it doesn’t force the sounds which Kvelertak embrace, it flows exceptionally naturally. Utilising their genius they have captured in their past including their self-titled record and Meir, but then adding and accentuating the music they love into their formula as the planet knows them; they may have delivered a new vocalist but have remained with THEIR identity, which is exactly how the heavy music world fell in love with them.
There is an abundance of curveballs, ‘Discord’ for example has a “did that just happen moment?” with Ivar announcing “Air guitar, come on!” mid-song, possibly a questionable moment? Truthfully, this scribe could not imagine a better description; but does it work and would it work in front of thousands? Undoubtedly.
In all sincerity, LP number four is a tremendous redevelopment for Kvelertak; not that they really changed “that much” and that is the most enjoyable aspect. The Troy Sanders (Mastodon) inclusion on ‘Crack Of Doom’ is one which probably have Mastodon trying to find a sequel to THAT song itself. ‘Necrosoft’ is a near perfect balance of Punk and Black Metal that it may just redefine what the word “genre” actually is. ‘Fanden Ta Dette Hull’ cries out for the AC/DC classic rock influence not before breaking into the most Thrashtastic Metallica driven uppercut to leave the listener dazed and confused; but mostly from head-banging (there is a recovery closure to the epic track). ‘Tevling’ breaks new grounds for the sextet in the textures of post-punk along the lines of The Cure sung by Danzig, it is surprisingly and mysteriously contagious and confusingly bewitching. ‘Delirium Tremens’ on the other hand has an almost math-rock feel initially that This Town Needs Guns would be amazed by, it does break into heavier territory calling for a Rolo Tomassi contribution, nevertheless the Kvelertak stamp still cements what becomes THEIR song and THEIR album.
For the devotees who want Kvelertak record number four, Splid is matter-of-factly what you will get and be beyond satisfied and exhilarated by. They are not a “pigeon-hole” band and never have been gratefully – these 11 songs pummel, soothe, confuse, celebrate and enrage – and I personally couldn’t ask for Meir (translates to “more”).
Kvelertak – Splid tracklisting:
2. Crack of Doom Feat. Troy Sanders
6. Uglas hegemoni
7. Fanden ta dette hull!
9. Stevnemøte med Satan
10. Delirium tremens
11. Ved bredden av Nihil