Kvelertak are wild. Not just in a clichéd, rockstar kinda way. Not even in a hirsute, shirtless, typically-Nordic kinda way. They’re a law unto themselves and between the narrow walls, hard pillars and high ceilings of Glasgow’s Stereo (a trendy vegan bar that’s quarantined its basement for tonight’s meaty proceedings) they seem like a recipe for complete, unbridled carnage.
They don’t disappoint.
First up though, El Doom & The Born Electric deliver something easier, groovier and more likely to sleep with your mum than break your nose. The eponymous El Doom regales us with stories – between sets – of siring an anonymous member of the headliners after a gig one night. There’s a playful twinkle in his eye, but his tongue’s not far enough in cheek to definitely be joking. Onstage he’s just as much a broad character.
Melding spacey prog, whiskey-soaked country and punkish bite – think Clutch on a booze-binge with Zeppelin and The Hives and you’ll be part way there – they mightn’t quite be the sledgehammer between the eyes most of tonight’s crowd seem desperate for, but as foreplay before the full-blooded skull-smashery they’re very difficult to dislike.
Volume and moshpit action take a step up for Sweden’s Truckfighters. Somewhere between the concussive energy of the headliners and the grooving luxury of the openers they seem to levitate between two satisfying destinations without much a sense of quirky character of their own. That’s certainly not to say they’re lacking anything in terms of mighty riff-age or buzzing tune-age; just that they could do with something more in terms of identity to make an impression on a bill as strong as this.
As Kvelertak take to the high stage and the venue’s bathed in an icy blue glow nearly everyone in attendance is pretty well shitfaced (this is Glasgow on a Saturday night) but there isn’t even a hint of lethargy as wave after wave of energy and aggression sweep through the venue and threaten to tear the place asunder.
Opening with cuts from their barnstorming, self-titled debut and upcoming sophomore Meir (still weeks from release) we get Spring Fra Livet and Mjød. It’s a helluva kickstart and the place seems to pretty much explode. The audience are already slick with perspiration as they slide further into material from the upcoming opus and the southern tinge of the newer material is free to fuel ever more perilous headbanging and some incongruously shaken back-ends.
As punters stumble out of the pit literally covered in blood the ignorant bystander might reckon there’s some kind of ill will about the action. Not so. It’s a barbarian meeting of minds and bodies where concussive sound meets concussive action. A (slightly) less underground Fight Club, if you will: all freedom no worrying about consequence.
As Blodtørst powers through its brilliant, barnstorming reprise most of the wrecked bodies in attendance empty their sweat glands and fuel tanks and leave it all on the floor. There’s still an encore (Kvelertak and Utrydd Dei Svake) and full-on stage invasion to come. For any other gig they’d be a show-stopping climax. Here they seem like the logical punctuation at the end of something really special. We’ve known Kvelertak are truly brilliant from the very start. And as the second wave rises they’re somehow getting better still.