[Full set of pictures on Flickr via this link]
First time at a new venue is always good, especially when it’s a nice dingy underground grotto like Stereo in Glasgow. Piping across the ceiling, low stage at the front, cheap bar at the back and pillars. Pillars! Oh, I’ve not had my view obscured by a supporting hunk of steel since the days of the Riverside in Newcastle!
No criticism levelled, folks. It’s a cracking venue. The sound’s surprisingly good for such a small space and it’s “intimate” in a way that only somewhere this basic could be, while at the same time having a stonking lighting setup.
But what of the band? I missed all of the support acts – sorry – as I wasn’t feeling too great and almost had to force myself out to catch the headliners. Having said that, I did expect to catch at least one of them but I gather Stereo has a club night so an early curfew meant an early start for the bands.
Kvelertak wandered unassumingly onto the stage at around 9pm and kicked things off with a song with a Norwegian title. Erm, yeah, it’s going to be one of those reviews, folks. The band have one (self-titled) album and a single out, with their second album, Meir, due later this month. Plus all of their songs are in Norwegian, a language in which I have not even the slightest fluency.
All this matters not a jot when you play with as much passion as Kvelertak, with their three guitars. Bassist Marvin looks like he could rip the arms off a Wookie. Singer Erland could be that endangered Wookie (and I’m only saying this as he has hair and I’m jealous). The rest of the band weren’t shy either, with plenty of motion throughout the set.
This included Erland diving / falling (eek) off a roof somewhere towards the side of the room; Erland crowdsurfing; one of the three guitarists surfing (with guitar) and then allowing his instrument out into the crowd unguarded – brave man. Another guitarist on top of a speaker stack.
Oh, and the various stage invaders and divers. A venue which allows stage diving is, these days, a rarity. To find one that doesn’t even have a security barrier separating the band from the crowd is even rarer. I honestly think the last time I encountered this was Camden Underworld some years ago for Napalm Death. Before that it was Bradford Rios (the original one), and before that the aforementioned Newcastle Riverside.
The band handled divers well, helping them up and off again with a gentle shove if it was required. No problems, no animosity, no tempers. Quality.
But what of the music? It’s easy these days to try to categorise everything. Even within the metal grouping there must be 200 sub-genres which leak into one another like a badly-sealed collection of very noisy poster paints. Kvelertak, simply, play metal. Nice, loud, old-fashioned, bang-your-fucking-head-to-this heavy metal. Do you know how rare this is? A band that defies labelling by being wonderfully generic?
Little time was spared conversing with the audience as the band stormed through song after song after song. They definitely wanted to give the crowd what they were after and that was as much metal as they could chuck at them in the limited time they had.
Ending their set with about thirty people on the cramped stage, I don’t think our Scandinavian visitors could have been any happier. The crowd certainly mirrored that feeling and I didn’t hear a negative comment on the way out.
I sincerely think this will be the last tour Kvelertak will do at venues this small. With summer coming up and more exposure, they’ll almost certainly jump up to Garage-sized concert halls at least by this time next year. Will they soon be teaching us Norwegian in the same way we all learn German via Rammstein? Only time will tell, but on the strength of this performance they’ll find themselves very much on a list of bands you have to see live at least once.