Kvelertak – Endling

There is a certain compulsion among many metal fans in subgenre taxonomy. We sit down with our lab coats and microscopes, dissecting and examining the most subtle minutia, drawing lines through guitar tones, drumming styles, and even the pitch of the screamed vocals like international borders. Death, Doom, Black, Prog, Metalcore, and more are divided into factions so isolated that any sort of crossover is described as experimental.

But let’s be real. It’s all just rock and roll.

At least as far as Kvelertak is concerned. The Norwegian “Black & Roll” group returns with Endling, a record that owes equal debts to Behemoth, the Ramones, and Blue Öyster Cult.

Endling is as comprehensive a collection of rock and metal conventions as ever put to tape. Guitars shift between scorching tremolo picking to classic rock harmonized solos. The bass is as groovy as it is heavy. Drums are as danceable as they are brutal, shifting between the tried and true four-on-the-floor to blast beats to proggy, asymmetrical patterns. Vocals range from throat-shredding screams to anthemic singalong choruses. It’s the output of a group of folks who have ingested a steady diet of glam, black metal, old-school punk, thrash, and prog rock, mashed together into particles so small you can’t identify them, and fused together to create something altogether different.

On paper, it doesn’t sound like it would work. Plenty of bands assign similarly sprawling influences to themselves with middling results. But Endling just hits. And where so many metal bands are concerned with the darkness of their aesthetic or the seriousness of their craft, Kvelertak seems free of such pretentious ambitions. They’re just here to have fun, and boy, do they have fun. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the Darkness, if they were more given to black metal than hair metal. After a chorus, they’re just as likely to move into a breakdown as an arena-ready guitar solo.

In Freaks and Geeks, James Franco’s Daniel Desario defiantly declares, “Rock and roll doesn’t come from your brain, it comes from your crotch.” I may have already referenced this quote today, but it might as well have been written about this record. This record exudes the sort of primal, animalistic energy that rock and roll has been trying to put to tape since Sister Rosetta Tharpe strapped on a guitar. Despite however far we’ve come from those roots, this wildness still rumbles under the surface of every subgenre. Beneath the blistering fury of black metal or the cosmic ambitions of prog or the relentless heaviness of deathcore or the spiky urgency of punk rock is a feral spirit that cannot be tamed. Throughout Endling, Kvelertak conjures the very essence of that apparition and lets it run wild.

Endling is available now through Rise Records.

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