Kvelertak – Meir

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Kvelertak
Meir
Roadrunner

It seems the career trajectory of Norway’s Kvelertak can be compared it some ways to Rammstein, albeit with a currently quicker ascent, at least in the UK – having caught the eye with their debut self-titled record, a curious blend of black metal-tinged hardcore and classic rock, generating much discussion, despite the inherent lack of English or even German in their lyrical content. For certain it didn’t harm their true black metal forefathers who regularly sung in their native tongue, though their sound was in polar opposite to the mainstream in their desperate attempts to remain close to their origins. Kvelertak recognise those ancestral links but seem to embellish the party aesthetic of rock n’ roll and a hardcore intensity.

There’s nothing much different on album number two, ‘Meir’ (simply meaning ‘more’ in English), with every lyric still sung in their primary language, and the odd whiff of a cry of ‘sellouts!’ now they’re a Roadrunner band in the majority of the world. A disappointing sign of the times, you might well say, but if only that were actually true. What’s going on here is largely, literally more of what ‘Kvelertak’ offered. But like the greats so often do, they don’t change what isn’t broken. And so ‘Meir’ should just be enjoyed for what it is – a band revelling in their influences and having a damned good time doing so too. The black metal influence is prevalent in flashes particularly early doors and again later on the thrilling ‘Nekrokosmos’, but there’s a party vibe seemingly finding freedom in their sound too, particularly on tracks like the thoroughly anthemic ‘Evig Vandrar’, the Bronx-meets-Turbonegro groove of ‘Bruane Brenn’ and the truly stadium worthy ‘Tordenbrak’, with a riff that AC/DC would be proud of. How ironic, given that ‘Tordenbrak’ is Norse for the word ‘thunder’.

There’s no mistaking that Kvelertak still herald their Viking ancestors and indeed their Norwegian musical forefathers greatly, but the animal inside them it seems is always willing to turn loose. And hence, we are given a band for whom second album syndrome is a curse word that ought to be flushed down the toilet along with the other nonsensical terms this industry throws up. Sure the purists might balk and only the curios would constantly try to decipher every word they’re screaming, but Kvelertak’s name is growing with rapturous aplomb. These fair voyagers are likely to light fires and raise a beer in the sky numerous times before ‘meir’ becomes ‘mindre’.

Peter Clegg

Kvelertak – Bruane Brenn

Buy ‘Meir’ here

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Killswitch Engage – Disarm the Descent

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Killswitch Engage
Disarm the Descent
Roadrunner

Back in 2003, when Killswitch Engage dropped ‘Alive or Just Breathing’, it marked the dawning of what some described as the NWOAHM – the New Wave of American Heavy Metal – as bands such as KsE, Lamb of God, Chimaira, God Forbid and more surged forth into mainstream consciousness and helped to recover the genre from the precipice of nu-metal. While most of the bands of that time haven’t managed to sustain the momentum from that surge, Killswitch have remained up there at the top, despite losing then vocalist Jesse Leach. With Howard Jones at the fore, they still managed to shift records and build an astounding fanbase. Yet personally, I found Killswitch Engage becoming staler with every record, as they moved further away, it seemed, from the sound that won them their original admirers, becoming more and more formulaic in structure and sound. I personally didn’t find anything memorable about their second self-titled record at all.

Yet Leach’s return to the band after ten years away marks something of a watershed moment, a new dawn etc. for the band, and I certainly hoped ‘Disarm the Descent’ would recapture some of the fighting spirit of the band that seemed to have been lost in recent years. It does just that and more in spades. Leach has not been quiet over the last ten years, having plenty time to develop his vocals on last year’s Times of Grace album (with KsE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz) and prior to that with the criminally underrated Seemless. His vocals are markedly stronger than they were back on ‘AoJB’, and while only time will tell whether this album will produce anthems the size of ‘Life to Lifeless’, ‘My Last Serenade’ et al, you can’t argue they haven’t tried. Musically, this is the most intense Killswitch have been for a while, particularly on tracks like ‘The Hell In Me’ and ‘A New Awakening’, the latter of which Leach counts in with an aggressive ‘1, 2, 3, 4!’ which alone is sure to liven up any future circle pits, itself providing an extra level of intensity to the song. The more melodic side has been reupped as well – ‘You Don’t Bleed For Me’ and ‘A Tribute to the Fallen’ are all worthy singalongs but by no means guilty for doing so, each brewing with thunderous beats. Sure, they can’t resist digging out the metal lighter anthem in ‘Always’, but its far from turgid and to be honest, it sticks with me more than Killswitch have in recent years, in a good way.

Even if you threw the towel in on this band years ago, now is the best time to start rediscovering them, just as with Leach on board, the band seem to have rediscovered their best form, mucking around far less and really getting their teeth into the shred. As my tastes expanded I seemed to enjoy the relative simplicity of metalcore less and less, but its undisputed flagbearers have shown there’s still a fire inside the veterans of the NWOAHM charge. For all the hype Roadrunner pump into their releases, ‘Disarm the Descent’ pays it back gratitiously, and then some.

Peter Clegg

Killswitch Engage – In Due Time

Buy ‘Disarm the Descent’ here

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King Diamond – No Presents for Christmas

What I would give to see this as Christmas number one in the UK, rather than letting the winner of a fading reality singing competition butcher another pop or rock song. I know my isn’t going to come true, as the sheeple probably think King Diamond is another playing card and not the dark overlord of all things great about metal. Of all the alternative Christmas songs, this is surely one of the best.

Roadrunner Records have rereleased Diamond’s first solo song officially, twenty-seven years after initially being released. Come on folks, let’s try and get something going. It’s a long shot but if we can get this song into the Top 40 on Sunday, wouldn’t that be great for a laugh, if just for this week?

Peter Clegg

Gojira – L’Enfant Sauvage

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Gojira
L’Enfant Sauvage
Roadrunner

It feels like such a long time since Gojira released ‘The Way of All Flesh’, the 2009 album that cemented the French death-metallers reputation as true metal heavyweights following the monstrous ‘From Mars to Sirius’. Three years isn’t the longest between albums for any band – in fact it’s not unusual – but with Gojira it has felt like an eternity, with only the promise of the ‘Sea Shepherd’ EP for the charity of the same name still in the works, having been announced seemingly ages ago, and the live ‘The Flesh Alive’ DVD as something to tide Gojira fans the world over in anticipation of their new release. Then they signed to Roadrunner, things sped up a little and here we are, with their new album ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’.

The most noticeable difference between their latest work and their predecessors appears to be a shift towards vocal-driven harmonies rather than the bludgeoning riff patterns that we’ve become accustomed to setting their tone. ‘Liquid Fire’ is one example, released as a single for this album and it shows too, possessing a chorus that switches between gruff and clean spoken vocals. At times ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ feels less dynamic that its predecessors, in the riff department at least – towards the end there’s an unfamiliar feeling of drag, particularly ‘The Fall’, by which time it really begins to feel like by-numbers metal. There’s still times when they deliver earth-shattering grooved aggression with their usual aplomb, such as on ‘The Axe’, which has one hell of a pulsating twin-pedal chugging groove that Gojira have become well known for, and the proverbial battering ram of ‘Planned Obsolescence’.

Gojira – Planned Obsolescence

Ultimately ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is a difficult one to surmise. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. Did it have some truly explosive sections where I wanted to go ape? Yes it did. Is it a letdown? Hmmm…considering how Gojira have been lorded since ‘From Mars to Sirius’ and ‘The Way of All Flesh’ dropped, you’d have to say yes. I don’t feel as though that, as good as some of the tracks are, there’s anything half as explosive as on previous albums. ‘The Way of All Flesh’ had marauding technical numbers like ‘Oroborus’, and the raw power of ‘All The Tears’ or ‘Adoration for None’. ‘From Mars to Sirius’ had ‘In The Wilderness’, ‘From the Sky’, to name a couple. Remember, for a death metal band, Gojira aren’t exactly about riff salad – and ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ in particular features a lot of simple riffs that often threaten to blend into one big soufflé, but for some great shifts in tempo and verve from drummer Mario Duplantier.

If I had to choose between this record or any of Gojira’s previous works, I’d probably plump for one of the older records at least 90% of the time. That’s not to say it’s a bad record. Or that’s it’s necessarily their worst. ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is still a damn good metal album and better than a lot of what you’ll probably hear this year, but it isn’t immediate – it will take some of you a few listens to grow into it and indeed, some of you might well be doing similar chin-stroking to me when deciding how to sum up this album. Anticipation’s a bitch, isn’t it?

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ here

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