It seems as if I discovered most of my favorite bands from some sort of association with Baroness and their frontman John Dyer Baizley. One of Baizley’s biggest passions is art. He has his own unique style that can best be seen on the covers of Baroness’ records. But he has also worked with a number of bands in the hard rock/heavy metal genre including Kylesa, Black Tusk, and Norwegian metallers, Kvelertak.
Kvelertak was one of the bands that had really piqued my interest, almost immediately. In addition to the cover art by Baizley, the music was something that really left me wanting more. The blend of black metal and punk rock on “Bruane Brenn” was my first taste of their second full-length, Meir. I dove more into that record and examined every note, every lyric probably about 15 more times before giving their self-titled debut a listen, or 30.
I was excited to see them live for the first time back in 2014 with Gojira and Mastodon. One of the things I was curious about was if there was a way I could possibly get any more excited over hearing tracks like “Apenbaring,” “Evig Vandrar,” and “Ulvetid” live. These were songs that I had played on repeat, almost nonstop. If you ever have a chance to see Kvelertak live, please do. Although their time on stage that May night was limited, these guys did not disappoint.
Fast forward two years later, and Kvelertak will be in the New York/Philadelphia area again. This time, in advance of their upcoming third LP, Nattesferd. With a song already available in the various digital outlets, “1985” provides a glimmer of what fans can expect. And once again, their music will be accompanied by incredible artwork. For this one, the band recruited the famous Arik Roper, who has worked with bands like Sleep and High On Fire.
I had the chance to catch up with vocalist Erland Hjelvik and guitarist Vidar Landa of Kvelertak. We chatted about their upcoming release and how the writing process differed from their other records. Album art was also a focal point as they mentioned some of their favorite record covers and how they got in touch with Arik Roper. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about the Kvelertak live show and what fans can expect this go around. Check out what Vidar and Erland had to say below:
When did you guys begin writing Nattesferd?
Vidar Landa: We started writing about a year ago. After the Meir touring cycle had ended, we had some months off before we met up in our rehearsal space in Oslo, Norway.
What was your writing process like for this one?
VL: Most of the parts on this record were actually jammed out in the rehearsal room. We were able to take our time and try out different ideas and arrangements, and really work on the songwriting altogether. We also wanted to keep in mind that we wanted to record this album live, so the arrangements had to fit a live studio setting, and avoid any overdubs.
Do you guys have a set approach to writing a record? Or has it changed from album to album?
VL: The debut album was a collection of songs from when we started in 2006 up until when we hit the studio in 2009. Meir we spent about three months in between tours. Both were mainly written or based on Bjartes [guitar] songs or ideas. On Nattesferd we’ve worked together from start to finish and spent about a year on it altogether.
How did the album art come together with Arik Roper?
Erlend Hjelvik: He’s always been on the top of the list of artists that we’d like to work with, so that was a no brainer! I’ve always been a big fan of his work, especially the things he’s done for bands like Sleep and High On Fire. I didn’t give him much, other than that the cover needed an owl along with some reference pictures. These were pictures that he has done in the past, along with art from legends like Frank Frazetta and so on. Of course, we also explained the lyrics to him and sent him the songs so he could get a better feel for how the album would turn out.
Is there a significance to it? Any specific track the art relates to?
EH: I think it contains all the elements and themes from our different songs. We sang about everything from norse mythology to more science fiction type lyrics. So I think the cover art reflects that brilliantly.
Do you guys have any favorite album art? Or are you a fan of any specific artist?
EH: Of course! Whenever I see good art I always try to find out who the artist is. Unfortunately, on a lot of the classic albums, I think most of them are retired. But I can mention classic covers like Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstacy, Blue Oyster Cult’s Fire Of Unknown Origin and Cultosaurus Rex, Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Jean Michelle Jarre’s Equinox, a lot of the Bathory covers… the list goes on! Of course we’re obviously fans of more current artists like John Dyer Baizley and Arik Roper.
“1985” has elements that resemble a blend of classic rock and classic Kvelertak sound. Can fans expect something similar throughout the entire record?
VL: “1985” is maybe the song that stands out the most on the record, but still has all the ingredients for a typical Kvelertak song. Like our previous album you’ll hear hints in all directions from black metal and punk rock to classic rock and pop.
You guys mentioned previously that the upcoming tour will be a place to hear some of the new tracks. Will you be playing a couple, or are you hoping to mix a good amount in the sets to advance the record a bit more?
VL: We are really excited about the new record so we’ll try to fit in as many new songs as possible in the setlist. It will be a good blend of all three records I believe.
If you had to explain to a new fan what a Kvelertak live show is like, how would you describe it?
VL: Energetic, sweaty, heavy and a lot of fun!
What are some things that you guys need to bring on the road? Some tour essentials, if you will?
VL: I always bring a lot of books, music, series and movies to keep myself entertained during all the waiting a tour can typically consist of.
You are getting set to tour with the guys in Torche and Wild Throne. How do these bills come about? Is this something the labels sort out or do you guys get to pick who you’d like to hit the road with?
VL: We choose all the bands we tour with ourselves. Sometimes we get suggestions from booking or the label, but in the end it’s always our call. It’s definitely one of the coolest things about being in a band. We get to tour with so many of our favorite bands and make friends all over the world.
Anything else you guys would like to include?
VL+ EH: Check out our new record Nattesferd and come see us live!
Kvelertak will hit the road with their friends in Torche and Wild Throne this spring. On April 13, they will take the stage at Irving Plaza in New York, NY. They will then head over to Underground Arts in Philly on April 14. Nattesferd will be released via Roadrunner on May 13. For more information and tour dates, head over to kvelertak.com.