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Album Review: Nattesferd by Kvelertak

Norwegian metalers Kvelertak release their third album Nattesferd on 13th May via Roadrunner Records. Coming off the back of their critically acclaimed sophomore album Meir (2013), this album sees Kvelertak push on and stretch the boundaries of heavy metal. Nattesferd takes the foundations of their previous material – blending elements of thrash and progressive metal – adding some veiled hooks, making this your essential metal album of 2016.

If you’ve been previously acquainted with Kvelertak then you’ll know that this is a band in the upper echelons of modern metal. Nattesferd solidifies that position, pushing them ahead of (the not dissimilar sounding) Baroness.  Opener ‘Dendrofil for Yggdrasil’ acts as a literal translation of the band’s name (Norwegian for “stranglehold” or “chokehold”) and the sound doesn’t let go from there on in. There’s a real visceral heaviness from the crushing riffs through to the guttural vocal of Erlend Hjelvik. It comes in start comparison to second track ‘1985’ which at times sounds like a homage to that year with elements of pop/power metal coming to the fore.

The progressive metal side comes out in the superb title track with duelling riffs creating an electric atmosphere before the track breakdowns into a frantic driving heavy rock churning monster. The addition of “clean” vocals and a hook see Kvelertak verging towards a more accessible sound. ‘Svartmesse’ is one of those moments when you realise you’re listening to a truly excellent metal album. The riffs are polished but retain an edge that would appease the most ardent metal fan, while also coming in as melodic and even infectious. There’s enough bluster and drive to place this track on an equal footing with the heavier, thrasher tracks like the monsterous and rebellious ‘Bronsegud’.

Pomp and grandeur is returned with the storming ‘Ondskapens Galakse’. It blends the more accessible sounds with a commanding metal drive. You could be forgiven for thinking of a heavy metal version of Rush. Not for the first time on Nattesferd you’re blown away by the infectiousness underpinning the heavy riffs and pummelling guitar work. ‘Berserkr’ moulds the most extreme elements of Kvelertak with their most accessible resulting in a track that is every bit as frantic and brutal as it is instantaneous. With the frantic comes the epic and expansive; ‘Heksebrann’ stands out due its ambitious and progressive nature. It’s the best track on the album simply because it does everything (and more) that you’ve come to expect from the band. It takes you on a dark and sonically dynamic journey through progressive metal, folk metal and sludgey pop metal. There’s a delectable bassline in album closer ‘Nekrodamus’ before the churning guitars take over and the track develops into a progressive blues metal.

Nattesferd sees Kvelertak at the very top of their game. It’s an ambitious album that would have been far beyond many of their contemporaries. This will surely become a landmark in heavy metal, superb from start to finish.

AD Rating 9/10

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