Metal Night in Cambridge: Doomriders, Kvelertak & High On Fire Live at the Middle East

WHERE: Middle East Downstairs – Cambridge, MA

WHEN: November 16, 2013

Norway’s Kvelertak Put Cambridge In A Stranglehold

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Boston’s own Doomriders stomped through an opening set that sounded something like the Foo Fighters’ heavier moments beefed up with a 100cc injection of equal parts Thin Lizzy and Clutch. Norwegian black-punk sextet Kvelertak (meaning “stranglehold” or “chokehold”) followed, with vocalist Erlend Hjelvik looking quintessentially Viking, shirtless and bearded, offering himself up to the crowd while wearing a bright-eyed owl for a headpiece.

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Kvelertak’s catchy, anthemic and upbeat songs—all sung in the band’s native language—brought smiles to a sea of scowls, a breath of fresh air in the sometimes too-serious world of metal, though certainly didn’t lack in screams, heavy riffs and furious headbanging. Triple guitar attacks can be tricky to pull off in a live situation, but guitarists Vidar, Bjarte and Maciek deftly traded leads and harmonies without a single note being lost in the mix. A testament to their sound man, for sure, and their crew in general; when Bjarte (who plays uber-aggressively with only his fingers, no pick) broke a string, his tech had the string replaced and stretched, the guitar ready for more punishment before the next song ended.

Oakland’s High On Fire wrapped up the evening with a crushing twelve-song set. Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike was in fine form, smiling—sober—as he wailed on his Les Paul, alternating between precise and chaotic, even after losing a shoe or while aimlessly noodling away as drummer Des Kensel swapped out a busted snare. But it was Kvelertak that stole the evening, owl or no owl.

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photos by Matt Lambert


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