Concert preview: Norwegian hard rockers Kvelertak plow over the language barrier

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Nattesferd, the third full-length studio album from Norwegian hard-rock sextet Kvelertak, includes songs that rail against modern technology, escapist, sci-fi fantasies and tracks informed by the country's folklore, including one penned about a famed witch burning.

Of course, none of this will be immediately evident to most stateside audiences, since singer Erland Hjelvik delivers his words exclusively in his native tongue, growling atop an assortment of heavy-but-hooky riffs that marry metal's mass with breezier pop pleasures.

"I think we've said before that we actually want people to like our music," said a laughing Hjelvik, who joins his bandmates for a concert at A&R Music Bar on Thursday, April 21. "It's always been a big part of this band. I think it would be boring if there was no melody and we were just being heavy for the sake of being heavy. It makes it more interesting to have these other elements."

According to the frontman, Kvelertak (the word translates to "chokehold"), which formed in Stavanger, Norway in 2007, has come a long way from its earliest days, when the music essentially served as a boredom-killing hobby.

"We never had any ambition when we started the band. It was just to do for fun, and something to pass the time," he said. "There was never any intention to get a record label or anything like that. All of that just happened out of nowhere."

In the years since, however, the bandmates have adopted music as a full-time pursuit, playing hundreds of concerts and even exploring less-glamorous means of improving their skillsets. For a time, Hjelvik even joined a "man choir" in his Norwegian hometown, intent on finding new ways to maximize his vocal prowess. "It was a way to challenge myself, but the only things I really picked up were techniques for warming up," he said.

Hjelvik has similarly stretched himself lyrically, moving from the self-described "Viking party rock" tunes populating the band's self-titled 2010 debut into darker, meatier realms as outsized as its towering musical output. "I get inspired by old stories and more mythological stuff because it feels more epic and grand, which fits the music very well," he said.

Though the Kvelertak mates continue to branch out musically, the band has felt little pressure - internally or externally - to record English-language songs in an attempt to court a larger audience.

"There's been no pressure at all. We have total freedom, which is a great feeling," Hjelvik said.

Not that the band is purposely putting up barriers.

"Even if I sing in Norwegian, I'm always trying to sound urgent, and I want that feeling to get across," the frontman said. "I want the people to have an idea what the band is about, even if they don't know Norwegian. I write the liner notes and lyrics in the LP in English, and I think our album art and T-shirt designs can also help get the message out about what the band is about. It all matters."

A&R Music Bar

7 p.m. Thursday, April 21

391 Neil Ave., Arena District

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