Kvelertak – Splid Review

Splid is sort of a pivotal moment for Kvelertak. It’s their first album in four years, and first with new singer Ivar Nikolaisen and new drummer Håvard Takle Ohr. Given these circumstances and the fading spotlight the band once had in the early 2010’s, this album is a test of whether Kvelertak can still remain a strong, creative force.

While Kvelertak have always been a black ‘n’ roll band, this album is much more of a straight-up hard rock record. It’s really hard to pull of this style of rock without sounding derivative, cheesy, or tired. Fortunately, none of those adjectives apply to Splid, as Kvelertak pulls this off very convincingly. It also helps that there’s a hefty dose of variety on the album. There are many punk and hardcore elements throughout the album, be it Nikolaisen’s vocal delivery or the gang vocals of the four axemen. The band enlisted Mastodon’s Troy Sanders for the most punk cut on the album “Crack of Doom”. I’m a bit mixed on Troy’s punk vocals for the verses, but goddamn his baritone chorus is so infectious! It’s a really fun and energetic track – a theme that flows through pretty much the entire album.

Despite the Troy Sanders feature, “Delirium tremens” is actually the most Mastodonian song on the album. Besides possibly being a reference to a great beer, it is also the most ambitious track. The song starts with gentle, sprawling guitarwork, gradually building to a chaotic, Converge-like hardcore section. Speaking of Converge, the band brought back Kurt Ballou for production, and “Discord” features guest vocals by Nate Newton. The production is crisp and clear, especially given the amount of people in this band. The bass makes such an impact despite being flanked by three guitars.

There are lots of layers to dive into with the bands triple guitar approach. Besides the firey vocals from Nate Newton, “Discord” features an incredible guitar solo section and a complex, interwoven guitar outro. “Rogaland” starts with a slow build that sees beautiful, washy guitar parts slathered upon each other. Guitar harmonies show up throughout this record, like the ones in the chorus of “Fanden ta dette hull!”. The song’s bridge is proof that Kvelertak would make an incredible thrash metal band. There’s a fair amount of metal elsewhere too; the band’s black metal influences come in to play on “Necrosoft” and “Ved bredden av Nihil”. These moments are fleeting, but they work incredibly well in the context of these hard rock ragers.

That first run of seven songs is pretty flawless. However, the record is almost an hour long, which even for a great hard rock album is too long. The only track that fails to impress is “Tevling”. It’s a decent song, but given the excitement of the tracks that came before it and the adventurousness of the tracks that follow, it’s not noteworthy. Also, I didn’t like the fade-out of closer “Ved bredden av Nihil” at first, but I realized how nicely it segues back into the fade-in on “Rogaland” and I now approve.

The easiest reviews are the ones where you inadvertently listen to the album a dozen times. It’s hard to put this album on and not come out of it with a big dumb grin – it’s so fun! Kvelertak did an excellent job crafting a feel-good rock album. I’m looking forward to everything this new lineup has to offer. I’m pretty blown away – I did not expect to be as head over heels for this album as I am!

Best Tracks: Discord, Crack of Doom, Delirium Tremens, Rogaland, Bråtebrann

Weakest Tracks: Tevling

FFO: Foo Fighters, Baroness, Clutch

Overall Score: A-

– A.

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