Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
Wednesday evening and the prospect of another musical feast at the Slade Rooms. First on out of the three bands and on a very dimly lit stage was Wounds, A Dublin based outfit allying themselves to the alternative rock/punk genre. Tonight’s performance shows there is certainly plenty of energy and the songs exude attitude that reflects a difficult recent past, but a determination to throw two fingers at it and to just get on having fun and living life.
All the songs in the set were taken from the debut album Die Young. For this leg of the tour regular bassist Aaron McGrath needed to return home and was replaced by Baby Godzilla guitarist Jonny Hatt, and a great job he did too! My own pick of these would be ‘No Future’, which strangely contradicts the outlook for these lads, if this performance was any yardstick.
Enter Empress AD who, according to Kerrang, is “more in your face than a pair of eyeballs!” They were certainly different to openers Wounds, and as the first song progressed I was reminded of the likes of Karnivool and Tesseract, so was expecting big things and great prog. Sadly, I felt a little underwhelmed by the end of the seven song set. Yes there is a lot of good stuff in there but I felt the music lost its way on occasions and it appeared that the main bulk of the crowd weren’t in the zone either as the applause was more polite than wildly enthusiastic despite the fact that they had quite a few fans in the Slade Rooms. As was the case for Wounds, the very dim lighting did not help the cause.
Nevertheless, I liked the sound of ‘Delve into the Retrospect”, a new one soon to feature on an upcoming album. Just how long did vox Ollie Loring hold that scream for?? Just shy of 20 seconds I made it. The dark and heavy sound of this track really stood out for me.
I will be keeping one eye open for Empress AD as they have good backing courtesy of Roadrunner Records, so their future bodes well.
Headline band for tonight is another serving of Nordic metal known as Kvelertak. This Norwegian 6 piece should deliver a thunderous sound worthy of the Mighty Thor himself! To be honest, once they were on stage, it was quite congested due to the amount of backline so movement was limited, not that you could see much as their own lighting tech used back and side lighting with the crowd viewing silhouettes pretty much most of the time. The music on the other hand really hit the spot. Quite how they have kept this level of energy going for so many gigs played without a day off is testament to just how good they are and how important the power of music is. Frontman and vocalist Erlend Hjelvik is heavy metal personified, head banging his way through a set taken in the main, from “Meir” their latest album. His vocal delivery oozes “mess with me if you dare” and to reinforce that he is soon rid of his shirt and parading his tattooed torso like a rampant Viking on a pillaging expedition.
It was such a pity then that his vocals got lost in the overall mix, taking second place to the three guitars and a PA being a little too loud at times. However, in the overall context, these are minor observations as the crowd were clearly not bothered at all as they rocked, head banged, chanted and drank their way through the set. Lines of heads all moving in sync – it was an amazing sight.
Whether or not you consider Kvelertak to be punk/heavy metal/rock doesn’t really matter as all genres are apparent in varying degrees throughout the set. One thing is for sure these guys don’t hold back and as their name translates, they keep a stranglehold on the whole happening which is not relaxed until they have long left the stage.
A gruelling 17 date tour of the States follows this final UK show, so America you have been warned. Be sure to look these guys up when they are next in the UK. I will !
Kvelertak are Erlend Hjelvik vocals, Vidar Landra guitars/keys, Bjarte Lund Rolland guitars, Maciek Ofstad guitars vocals, Marvin Nygaard bass and Kjetil GjermundrØd on drums