Originally published in the CJLO Magazine.
On the last stretch of an 11-week tour to promote their sophomore full-length Meir (Roadrunner Records), Norwegian band Kvelertak played to a sold-out crowd at Katacombes on May 21st before hitting their last date in Toronto. Performing that night as part of the original line-up were the three guitarists Bjarte Lund Rolland, Maciek Ofstad, and Vidar Landa, bassist Marvin Nygaard, and of course vocalist and front-man Erlend Hjelvik. A few weeks prior to the Montreal date, drummer Kjetil Gjermundrød left the tour prematurely due to an arm injury, so Jay Weinberg (son of E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg) took over on drums to fill the void, and Kvelertak delivered, hands down, the best show in Montreal so far this year.
With only three Canadian dates on this tour, the Montrealers in attendance were damn lucky to have purchased their tickets beforehand because this show was intense... complete with sweat, spit, fist pumps and blood! Yes, blood. Oozing plasma to be exact, thanks to an audience member (or should I say jerk) who decided it would be a good idea to fight-dance in the pit after being tattooed that day. This dude started out the night with bandages on his arm, which were subsequently ripped off by the swarming mass of sweaty metalheads. Enjoy that staph infection, asshole. This was probably the first show I’d ever been to that was literally a health hazard, and I wouldn't expect anything less.
Kvelertak belted the crowd with their wicked array of in-your-face black metal, garage rock, and punk-inspired melodies, hardcore-style gang vocals, and a hint of—dare I say?—pop. Yeah, dark Nordic-style pop performed by heavily tattooed vikings! And just enough metal to get everyone at Katacombes party-rocking into a collective state of head-banging bliss. I was really impressed with their unique blend of heavy musical styles, and each song sounded different. The stand-out tracks for me included the lead single "Bruane Brenn" and the eponymous "Kvelertak" off of Meir, and the band were also heavy on the songs from their self-titled debut Kvelertak from 2010. Chokehold indeed!
Erlend Hjelvik tossed his sweaty mane around, caught his loogies right before the spit hit the crowd, climbed the mosh pit, and there was lots of hair touching (much to the enjoyment of two rockin’ chicks who toughed it out front-stage). Marvin Nygaard climbed the rails with ease and pummelled the bass on a teeny tiny platform, and no stone was left unturned as both Erlend and Maciek Ofstad raised their hands and played to the crowd stage right, left, and up on the balcony.
During the encore, the band paused on an instrumental refrain for a good 30-45 seconds and then as they belted out the final tune, Erlend took off through the crowd and disappeared through a door at the back of the venue never to return to the stage that night. When the show was over, I wondered, “Does the door open up to a secret passageway leading to the greenroom?” I chuckled to myself thinking that perhaps he was hiding in a small closet, waiting for the crowd to leave the venue before coming out. Never did see him after the show. Check out their website to find out if Erlend made it home!