Kvelertak: Moving Forward By Looking Back

Kvelertak is one of the most distinctive heavy bands of this century. After developing an instantly recognizable sound, they face the unenviable task of changing. Metal As Fuck catch up with vocalist Erlend Hjelvik to talk about those changes and the new album.

Let me take you back to a far off time, June 2010, when Kvelertak seemed primed to take over the world. I seem to remember just about everything I read about the band, hailed them as the saviours of metal. Ghost’s first album was still a few months off from dropping and the wave of post-ironic fandom that would see Babymetal rise to international fame was a few years away from clogging every half-assed metal blog in need of a few more clicks. But for those few months in 2010, Kvelertak seemed to make a legit claim. Their music was fresh, ferocious and catchy and they had the chops when playing live to boot. Unfortunately, the band became victims of the microcosm that is the internet hype machine. When their second album dropped, it was 'good', but it sounded a lot like the first. The public; already moving on to the Next Big Thing™, turned their gaze away from the band.

Kvelertak are still going strong (seemingly one of the very few metal bands in the world still putting out albums with Roadrunner), and their new album Nattesferd sees the band evolving their sound and exploring the more classic rock elements of their style. Corresponding with Metal As Fuck via email; Kvelertak’s vocalist Erlend Hjelvik is keen to talk about the album. “We just wanted to put out another kickass album which I think we've succeeded with!” Erlend states when quizzed about what he wanted to achieve with Nattesferd. This didn’t come without trepidation though, “I thought maybe the reception would be more mixed this time since we've changed the sound and approach from the previous two. But, I've only read great reviews so far which is cool.” Expanding on this decision to explore new sounds on the record, Hjelvik adds “I think it's a reflection of the music that we listen to nowadays, we don't listen to as much metal as when we did the first album. When you are on tour and you ears are ringing from playing a really intense and loud show that's not the first kind of music that you put on the stereo when you are back on the bus, instead we tend to listen to more classic bands like Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Scorpions, Blue Öyster Cult and so on.”

Being three albums deep into their career has delivered some important lessons for Hjelvik and the band. “I like to think we've learned how to be somewhat more professional! We have a proper crew now compared to when we started out so that makes things on stage much easier. We put a lot of effort into putting on good live shows.” Hjelvik says. “When it comes to recording we recorded things live this time around because we felt that something was lost in the process when we recorded our instruments individually on previous albums. We wanted more of a live feeling to come out by doing things the way we did them this time.”

A new approach naturally brings with it a new aesthetic. This is reflected by the decision to utilise the services of Arik Roper for the cover art, as opposed to John Blaizley of Baroness who lent his talents to the covers of Kvelertak’s previous two albums. For Hjelvik, this was a deliberate decsision to shake things up. “Since we recorded in a new studio this time, it felt natural to have someone else do the cover this time around. Arik Roper has always been on the top of my list of people I've wanted to work with so I'm glad we could finally make it happen. I think his 70's aesthetic suits the vibe of the album perfectly!”

Even despite all of the risk involved with changing as a band in a digital age, Hjelvik doesn’t feel pressured to meet the expectations of forces outside the band. “We just focus on ourselves, the most important thing is that we love the music ourselves and (we hope) the rest agree with us. That's pretty much been our approach since day one and that's been working for us so far.”

Nattesferd is out now.