Album Review: Kvelertak - Splid
Genre: Blackened Rock N Roll/Hard Rock
Review by Jake Patton
Over the past decade, Norway’s Kvelertak have blazed a fiery trail amongst the hard rock genre. Being a quiet achiever the band has received many accolades over their career, including winning two Spellemannprisen (Norwegian equivalent of the Grammys), but has continued to diligently toil away to impart their name upon the rock world. Armed with a refreshed lineup, the band’s fourth and latest album Splid (“Discord” in English) seeks to continue the band’s meteoric rise to the top of the rock genre, and cement them as one of its flag-bearers moving forward.
As an early contender for album of the year, it’s easy to be excited about Splid. It’s a balanced, nuanced and uncompromisingly fresh album that seamlessly delivers the unique party-rock sound that Kvelertak has been refining throughout their career. There’s no massive rewriting of the band’s history with this record either, as Splid offers more of the same from the band, but does so in a way which doesn’t feel rehashed or rote by any stretch of the imagination.
From the very outset of album opener Rogaland, you can feel the energy that has gone into this album. Minor intricacies like the raspy cries from Vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen, to the subtle guitar distortion and rhythmic drumming that crescendos into a clean chorus feels as fresh as many indie acts today, but are uniquely rock at the same time. It’s a great opener and works as a great lead in to second track Crack of Doom which features Troy Sanders of Mastodon. It’s a southern bluesy-rock sounding track but it’s extremely catchy and absorbs you from its opening note.
There’s a lot of quality like this on the album. Whether it be the rollicking guitar introduction to Necrosoft which quickly escalates to fervent tremolo picking in its verses before slowing down to a more melodic and stable sound for its choruses; the more highly melodic Discord, replete with pick slides and an easily crowd chantable chorus; the higher set octave of guitar on Uglas Hegemoni with its riveting solo; the slower-paced singalong Tevling; or the manic creativity of Delirium Tremens which takes you through a wide-range of emotions and sounds during its eight minute duration, it’s cliche, but there really is something for everyone on Splid.
For many bands, singing in a language other than English tends to be a limiting factor in their success outside their native region. However, much like German Industrial stalwarts Rammstein, though their music alone, Kvelertak seem to have transcended this barrier. Splid again epitomises this workmanship with its catchy rock-riffs creating an ease of accessibility to each song. This accessibility makes it easy to absorb every aspect of these songs at face value, with the band doing a very good job at leaving no secrets, agendas, or hidden learnings into their songs that could be gleamed from subsequent listens. Each track is a ‘what you see is what you get’ deal, and it works incredibly well. While there might be some who feel like the dissonant nature of same tracks leave them less accessible to casual listeners, on a whole there isn’t much else that might dissuade listeners away.
Although the band has undergone a line-up refresh since their last album, the contributions from the newest members truly make it feel like they have been part of the band since the very beginning. New vocalist Nikolaisen has comfortably filled the void left by Erlend Hjelvik, by taking to his role like a duck to water, delivering a performance that feels assertively strong. Any doubts that fans had following Hjellvik’s departure will be put to rest by Nikolaisen almost instantly, and his addition truly helps bring these songs to life and makes this album rest comfortably at home as part of the bands growing catalogue.
Likewise, new drummer Håvard Takle Ohr engages with bassist Marvin Nygaard to provide the perfect platform for the bands three guitarists to work from. It’s an honest performance, but one which elevates the intrinsic aspects of the each guitarist to help bring their individual sounds to life. His rhythmic pounding on album closer Ved bredden av Nihil's introduction is distinctly memorable and is worth visiting for multiple listens.
Structurally, the album is cultivated in a meticulous way to keep the listener engaged from beginning to conclusion. There are obviously no dull moments, with the entire runtime being engaging, but it feels as though there has been as much care put into the ordering of the tracks than there has been into the tracks themselves. The album has a momentous flow to it which makes it very easy to put on, kick back, and listen from start to finish.
There really isn’t much more to say. Splid is an uncompromisingly fun rock romp. It’s an album filled with enough energy to get any listener moving, and is uncompromising in its ‘hold-no-bars’ approach to being a good old fashioned Rock n’ Roll album. Splid is as much of a success for Kvelertak as Highway to Hell was for AC/DC, or Appetite for Destruction was for Guns N’ Roses, and should rightfully see Kvelertak’s star rise higher than ever before.
Rating: 9 out of 10