Seemingly seeking to embody the spirit of the trickster god Loki, Kvelertak have carved a career from defying expectations while crafting some of the world’s fieriest, funnest heavy metal. Fifth album Endling is no exception, delivering what you want from a Kvelertak record along with plenty you didn’t even realise you’d been craving.
Take opener Krøterveg Te Helvete, for example. It takes four minutes just to get its bloody intro out the way, before lurching into a bout of honky-tonk rawk’n’roll that sounds more like the New York Dolls than a band snorting church ashes and stolen skull fragments. True, the band’s signature sound – think the bombast of Turbonegro or The Hellacopters colliding with Immortal – is always within easy reach, but the scope and scale often seem grander than ever before. Likvoke shows how effortlessly Ivar Nikolaisen has bedded in, his portentous snarls soaring above glorious guitar heroics like something bat-winged flung up from the pits of Hell. The title track, meanwhile, seems to lob in a snaggletoothed Hüsker Dü melody, while epic closer Morild is a miniature rock opera in its own right.
This isn’t, though, to suggest it’s pure plain sailing. Døgeniktens Kvad cackles its head off as it deploys some Cotton Eye Joe banjo, before flinging in choral melodies and what sounds worryingly like windchimes. If this stretch just about works, then Skoggangr, with its blend of Status Quo, Queen and post-rock most certainly doesn’t – though it’s at least a travesty of such ostentatious proportions that it’s in keeping with an album that delights in taking one wild swing after another. That this batshit approach doesn’t descend into chaos or parody is mystifying, but also part of Kvelertak’s thrilling appeal. It’s a wild, bulge-eyed ride into the maelstrom, and fingers crossed it doesn’t end any time soon.