Friday, December 20, 2013

Year End Album Reviews # 3:

Meir by Kvelertak

Roadrunner, 2013

I was hoping to like this more than I did.

Give credit to this Norwegian sextet for a diverse sound. The core sound here is melodic punk/metal, but running through the songs, you hear much else in the heavy music tradition. A little AC/DC bombast here, some Entombed-flavored death 'n' roll over there, a dash of post-metal roar in a third place entirely: you can't say that Kvelertak are slaves to narrow sub-genre.

The problem, at least for me, is that all sub-genres are not equal in my eye. I became an adult during the hair-metal craze of the '80's. The stuff was omnipresent on the radio and on jukeboxes, and let's be blunt: I thought it sucked. Never mind how the bands looked: I thought the music 95% of the time was insipid and lame. Trying to escape the repetitive cliches of the sound that ruled the '80's drove me into the speedmetal albums of the Big Four, sent me into the indie LP bins at Y & T's in search of noise, in search of hardcore, in search of anything truly--not ersatz--heavy.

See, the thing is, that as Kvelertak recall the past in DRI and Kiss and Thin Lizzy and Entombed--and Boston!--they're also dredging up the tropes of '80's hair metal. Maybe you can spin it as some kind of feature, not a flaw, that Kvelertak is using the hair metal shout chorus, or trotting out that silly breakdown where the music opens up and there's just the drummer banging on his tom in moderate 4/4 as the singer claps his hands above his head. Maybe if you never had to endure hair metal when it first happened, the parts of Meir where everything becomes Motley-Crüe-flavored might seem ironic, or even fun.

But to me, this album goes by in fits and starts of inspired riffs and rhythm, broken up by interludes of horrible cliche.

It's a shame, because, while it's all derivative, there is a lot here that's interesting, even beyond John Baizley's odd exterior and interior artwork. Though everything is gutturally barked in Norwegian, so you can't understand shit, the album booklet gives a short precis of each song. "Nekrokosmos," one of the more expansive songs, is fleshed out for example by the following description: "A green meteor of iron strikes the graveyard. An intergalactic traveller won't leave until everything around him is dead."

The best song here, "Snilepisk"* moves along at a frenetic hardcore pace, before it shifts into schlocky territory, only to restart again. Ditto for "Bruane Brenn"**. The aforementioned "Nekrokosmos" sounds like Johnny Thunders until it sounds like Entombed. "Undertro"*** begins as QOTSAish robot rock, then does the horrible drums breakdown.

This is an album that could have been better had it been provided with a sonic eraser. That way you could leave the good parts in, while not having to deal with the bad.

Two-and-a-half stars

*"This dark tyrant's whip is made of hair and flesh. He will leave scars across the land." (Return)

**"Burn the bridges, kill the jailer; live life on the run" (Return)

***"Nothing matters. We're not even a grain of sand in the Cosmos" (Return)

File under: Norway or the Highway

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