Photo credit: Paal Audestad

words and interview by Hilary Saunders

Kvelertak is like catnip for metalheads. The Norwegian band makes people tap into previously unknown sources of jittery vigor until the eventual energetic expulsion of rocking, rolling, and head banging leads to a calm contentedness. That’s because the six-piece channels many different categories of metal to create its heavy pastiche—party metal, speed metal, death metal, and doom metal to name a few.

Even though he only sings in Norwegian, we checked in with lead singer (er, screamer) Erlend Hjelvik, who was kind enough to write to us in English. Read on to learn more about Kvelertak’s influences, current tour, and forthcoming third album Nattesferd—“a face-melter,” he declares—that drops May 13 via Roadrunner Records here in the States.

How do we poor insular Americans pronounce your band name? How do you write it phonetically?

EH: Quehllertack!

Is lead single “1985” a nod to Van Halen? George Orwell? Taylor Swift? Someone or something else?

EH: It’s both a nod to Van Halen and George Orwell. I found out after that Taylor Swift had an album named 1989 after writing it, which was a little annoying, but who cares. I don’t think it’s possible to confuse the two. 

I love the energy of song, though—riffs played in harmony, pinched harmonics, and big solos! At the same time, other tracks on the record bring elements of thrash, screamo, and more. And was that an acoustic guitar I heard on the title track?!

EH: Thanks, it’s all good! Yes, there’s acoustic guitar here and there on all our albums.

How was this writing experience different from previous records? What inspired such sonic—but still very metal—diversity?

EH: What was different this time is that we wrote the whole album together. We started writing more together instead of just Bjarte [Lund Rolland] writing on the last album, but the new one is more of a collective practice space record. I think the diversity is just a reflection of the music we listen to—pretty much everything between Beach Boys and Burzum.

How has writing/performing in Norwegian affected your career outside of your home country?

EH: I think it doesn’t hurt being from Norway when you play heavy music since it’s a country that a lot of people associate with that kind of music. [There’s] darkness, mountains, and church burnings! 

 In the U.S. we like to think that all the best metal comes from your region of the world! How true is that statement/stereotype? Who were some of your musical influences?

EH: In our region, Rogaland, there’s been a lot of good black metal and hardcore/punk bands. I can mention bands like Enslaved, Gehenna and Purified in Blood as notable influences. We used to play with Purified in Blood a lot and became good friends with them. They were known for being totally crazy on stage

What are most looking forward to on this North American tour?

EH: Being on tour with our good friends in Torche and Wild Throne and showing our fans our new songs from our upcoming album!

You’ve already had Norwegian royalty and metal royalty (Metallica!) come to your shows….who should your next regal fan be?

EH: One is enough. Our parents are happy with that. Well, maybe the Swedish king, as he seems like a cool guy to party with!

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