It is always great to see killer new bands receive swift and decisive recognition, but even a band as singular as KVELERTAK must have spent some of the last decade under considerable pressure to deliver. The departure of talismanic frontman Erlend Hjelvik in 2018 could easily have foretold a slow decline, but 2020's "Splid" was anything but. A slight dialing down of the band's much-celebrated black metal component was inevitable, but in every other respect the album rocked as hard as its predecessors. New frontman Ivar Nikolaisen had a voice that could strip paint, which fitted perfectly with the revealing of a more overt affiliation with classic rock. Despite arriving a mere few weeks before a global pandemic detonated around the world, KVELERTAK's fourth album made it plain that the Norwegians had plenty of piss, vitriol and massive riffs left in the tank.
Three years on, "Endling" begins, continues and ends with even more confidence and class than its predecessor. Seven-minute opener "Krøterveg Te Helvete" provides both overture and explosive curtain-raiser. "Fedrekult" is a grubby, gutter-dwelling hard(core) rocker. "Likvoke" is a sublime, psych-tinged expansion of the rejuvenated sound KVERLERTAK showcased last time around. Brash and snotty, "Motsols" is a disfigured RAMONES tribute, with Nikolaisen (who also fronts the brilliant THE GOOD THE BAD & THE ZUGLY) in his absolute element. "Døgeniktens Kvad" takes the mutant swamp rock route, with bonus banjos and blastbeats, and a strong post-punk undertow. At all times, a sense that the studio walls are dripping with sweat is overwhelming.
The second half of "Endling" has more surprises per square inch than the first. The title track is a melodic punk marvel, with faint, distorted echoes of THE CLASH and BLUE OYSTER CULT feeding into KVERLERTAK's knowingly subversive retro urges. It is also the perfect example of where this band are right now: in a curious sweet spot between raw, abrasive punk 'n' roll and the bombastic experiments of '70s hard rock. Similarly, "Skoggangr" is not a song that would have fit onto 2013's "Meir", but here its grimly jaunty prog-core makes perfect sense, as another purposeful left-turn away from the beaten track, with all the QUEEN-like trimmings. "Paranoia 297" is all STOOGES swagger and agit-punk urgency; "Svart September" is what would happen if THE HIVES sold their souls to Satan. The closing "Morild" is simply glorious: from meandering, offbeat intro to balls-out (and lightly blackened) metal with a sticky, gothic edge, it's a free-flowing encapsulation of everything that continues to make KVERLERTAK such a fascinating proposition.
Perhaps remarkably, "Endling" only occasionally harks back to its creators' early days. Hopefully now free to roam the planet causing rock 'n' roll havoc wherever they go, KVELERTAK have moved on and said yes to progress. The results rock stupidly hard, as we should have expected.
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