Kvelertak – Endling (Rise Records)

Vikings and trolls are for television. This is the real deal.

So says Kvelertak guitarist Vidar Lande of the band’s reassuringly explosive new record.

Of course, the Tak’s fifth studio album is no more of a real deal than Splid.

And no more authentic than Nattersferd, Meir or 2010’s genre-defying self-titled debut.

Kvelertak have always dealt in the real deal. Always.

There’s nothing manufactured, feigned or contrived about this Scandinavian riff-machine’s best work.

Never has been, never will be.

Trends are anathema to Lande and his taste-making buddies.

In the Kvelertak camp it’s always been the fashion to eschew fashion.

And Endling is suitably groundbreaking in its brain-melting, at times bafflingly brave ambition.

Taking up where Splid left off, it’s another compelling deep dive into Norse lore and legend: the band’s trademark Lizzyfied melodies driving modern metal par excellence.

Ivar Nikolaisen has clearly hit his stride after filling Erlend Hjelvik’s considerable shoes in 2018.

And production team Jørgen Træen, Yngve Sætre, and Iver Sandøy deserve considerable credit for bringing the talented vocalist’s unique roar to the fore.

In fact, those naysayers who confidently predicted Kvelertak’s post-Hjelvik decline should hang their heads in shame.

As brilliant as they are brutal, this baneful band’s never sounded better.

Highway To Kvel

There’s no doubt Nikolaisen adds a different dimension to Kvelertak.

And on the three-minute thriller Motsols it’s like listening to Scandi sleaze on steroids.

Commercial? Not quite.

But the enigmatic Endling allows Kvelertak to stretch the boundaries further than ever before.

The bluegrass twang ushering in Døgeniktens Kvad is devilishly cool.

That it morphs into some kind of Norwegian Anthrax — or Anthr-axe — is even better.

As usual Lande, Bjarte Lund Rolland and Maciek Ofstad wield Kvelertak’s triple guitar threat like a giant Skeggøx of old.

Creating a sonic power that could crush Maiden with a single swipe, theirs is a noise that knows no compare.

On reflection, Endling could be Kvelertak’s punkiest record yet.

The title track, in particular, pummels with pent-up angst.

And Nikolaisen really sounds like he means it as he races through the pumped-up Paranoia 297.

It gets back to Lande’s claim about the real deal.

There’s not a note here that even hints at compromise — Kvelertak’s gilded age of groove-laden grandstanding is simply gathering pace.

From beginning to Endling this is as exciting as it gets.