Five quick thoughts on Kvelertak's black 'n' roll rampage Thursday at Ace of Cups:
(1) In my preview from this week's print edition, I pointed out how impressively Kvelertak's sophomore full-length Meir (which is still streaming here) captures the sweltering intensity of a live show, but predicted that it would sound even better amongst a teeming mass of sweaty metalheads. Fortunately, the teeming mass showed up, and the result was one of those exhilarating experiences where the band and the crowd feed off each other's euphoria. The room wasn't quite full of people, but it was overflowing with energy. When it was all over, one of the band members thanked the crowd for making Columbus the best date on this tour so far. He might have been blowing smoke, but it was easy to believe him.
(2) One of the best aspects of the show was frontman Erlend Hjelvik's interactions with the audience. In classic frontman fashion, he stalked the stage, tossed his drenched Nordic mane around, frequently raised his hands skyward and even more frequently climbed on top of the monitors and against the front row of ragers. I don't think Kvelertak's music could ever come across as boring, but Hjelvik's antics amped the excitement up a few notches.
(3) These guys are hairy, burly metalheads from Oslo, so they've undoubtedly been subject to more than a few bracing black metal performances in their day. That much was clear watching them hesh through these songs. On Meir, the bombastic rock 'n' roll side tends to outshine the relentlessly hellish black metal side, but the black metal's definitive shreiking, pummeling wall of noise definitely came across in the live versions. Hearing that sound grafted into balls-out party rock makes you wonder why every band doesn't adopt that style.
(4) There are few more evocative sights in rock music than an army of fist-pumping Nordic soundbombers assembled before an arsenal of Orange amplifiers.
(5) This was advertised as a 60- or 75-minute set, but it only clocked in at about 45 minutes; Kvelertak couldn't encore due to some unspecified problem with the drummer's hand. I didn't mind the length, though. The band's name translates to "stranglehold" or "chokehold," and seeing them in action really is like being held up by your chin and berated by a posse of brutish ogres (in the best way). That level of intensity is almost as tough to endure from a fan's standpoint as it is to maintain from a band's standpoint. Better to clock us several times over and leave us reeling for next time.