Picture this: a rabble rousing lyrical kaleidoscope of Norse mythology, occult folktales, and “Satanic Space Vikings” soundtracked by black metal-fueled, punked-out rock ‘n’ roll anthems.
It could easily be a late night cult cable series, but it’s KVELERTAK’s third full-length album, Nattesferd [Roadrunner Records]. Unpredictability threads together the record’s nine songs, and it also remains the band’s calling card. This mastery of the musically unexpected has cemented the Norwegian sextet—Erlend Hjelvik [vocals], Bjarte Lund Rolland [guitar], Vidar Landa [guitar, piano], Maciek Ofstad [guitar, vocals], Marvin Nygaard [bass], and Kjetil Gjermundrød [drums]—as one of heavy music’s most celebrated acts.
Rolling Stone pegged their last offering, Meir, at #2 on its “20 Best Metal Albums of 2013” and named Nattesferd among the “25 Most Anticipated Metal Albums of 2016.” Pitchfork, Spin, The Quietus, Decibel, BBC Music, and more have sung their praises. While opening a sold out Foo Fighters show in Norway, rock legend Dave Grohl presented the band with their first Norwegian gold plaque in recognition of 2011’s self-titled debut. Turning Metallica into vocal fans, they’ve toured with everybody from Slayer and Mastodon to Gojira and Anthrax, building a diehard fan base along the way. However, Nattesferd sees the musicians raging at full blast and progressing once again.
“We wrote more as a group,” says Bjarte. “Everyone brought something to the table and we approached it more as band than ever—both with the material and performances.”
“There was a lot more experimentation this time,” agrees Erlend. “On the last two albums, Bjarte did most of the songwriting. Now, it felt like the whole band was more involved. It was something we wanted to do. We were supposed to do that on the last record, but we didn’t have much time. This writing process was more relaxed and free. It’s organic and natural. For the first time, we really focused on achieving what we sound like on stage in the studio. So, we recorded live. We want it to be unpredictable.”
Coming off the road after a marathon of touring behind Meir in 2015, the boys hunkered down in their rehearsal spot to write. By early 2016, they entered Amper Tone Studio in Oslo with producer Nick Terry [The Libertines, Turbonegro]. The six-piece emerged with their most explosive salvos yet (all screamed in their native tongue, of course!)
“We actually recorded the base tracks with drums, bass, and three guitars all at once,” Bjarte goes on. “It felt liberating. We recorded for three weeks, and Nick mixed and mastered it at his studio.”
The first single “1985” begins with a bombastic, brash, and ballsy arena-ready riff before spinning out into Erlend’s inimitable roar and a sweeping refrain. “When I first heard the song, I got that instant eighties feeling,” the frontman explains. “It’s a dystopian lyric. I think technology was pretty perfect in 1985, so we should’ve just stayed there. That’s basically it!”
Meanwhile, “Ondskapens Galakse” simmers with an ominous intro, haunting bridge, and captivating chorus. “It’s more of an H.P. Lovecraft-ian lyric,” he goes on. “It’s about awakening the ancient ones and waiting for a galaxy of evil. I think digging into mythology, literature, and folklore makes for good lyrical material. That’s what I’m interested in when I’m trying to write lyrics. It’s probably from listening to way too much black metal and heavy metal!”
“Berserkr” sees a punk wail crash headfirst on an unshakable metallic groove with what might be the most badass lyrics ever. “It’s about how in the Viking age, they had these warriors who would just get fucked up on ‘shrooms and kill Christians,” Erlend remarks.
The title Nattesferd specifically translates to “Night Journey,” and it’s completely apropos for this nocturnal rock ‘n’ roll romp. “I thought it was pretty descriptive of all the songs together,” the singer states. “The whole record is a journey, and the lyrics are pretty dark, so it works out well. Also, it reminds me of Fly By Night—the best Rush album!”
Ultimately, Nattesferd offers an escape. “It’s a release,” Erlend leaves off. “I hope the audience feels the same way we do when we’re playing a live show. I’d like whatever shit you’re thinking about to disappear from your mind when you listen to us. That’s why we do this.”
Vidar Landa – Guitar, Piano
Bjarte Lund Rolland – Guitar
Maciek Ofstad – Guitar, Vocals
Marvin Nygaard – Bass
Kjetil Gjermundrød – Drums
1. Dendrofil for Yggdrasil
6. Ondskapens Galakse