Kvelertak are a six-piece metal band from Norway whose success back home is stuff dreams are made of. Their brand of metal fuses rock n’ roll and punk (and just a tinge of black metal, for good measure) for a seriously playful sound that isn’t exactly customary for metal bands out of Norway. It speaks to the boys’ spirit that they’ve toured with some of the greatest bands in metal, like High On Fire, and it’s a testament to their music that they’ve been signed to a major label (Sony). I, for one, am sold on their music. For my first time interviewing a band, I had the chance to meet up with Erlend Hjelvik, the band’s singer, on their tour bus when they were passing through Montreal, sharing a bill with Mastodon and Gojira (check out some photos of the show and read the review).

Nairi K.: How do you like Montreal so far?

Erlend Hjelvik: I haven’t been able to do much, I just woke up like two hours ago, so just had breakfast and I’ve been hanging out on the bus. But we’ve played in Montreal before, and yeah, I really like the cit. It feels pretty European I guess compared to the rest of North America. So it feels like a good break from being in the U.S., you know?

What’s something that you really miss from home when you’re on tour? Food, activities…

I actually miss making my own food. That’s basically my main task of the day, making dinner and stuff like that, and that’s one of the things I miss. And just hanging out at home I guess, I’m kind of a homebody.

Let’s talk about your music a little bit, because I only discovered you because you’re on the bill with Mastodon and it’s been a really nice, pleasant discovery for me. I’ve noticed your videos are really different from one another, which is super cool, there isn’t one overall look, and in the video for “Kvelertak” there’s a super fun touring vibe. Who documents your tours?

On that tour, the one on which we did the “Kvelertak” video, we actually had a photographer with us, his name is Stian… I forget his last name, I think Andersen? But he has taken photos of Turbonegro and bands like that before, like really good photos, so he just came with us a couple of days on the tour and filmed a lot of stuff and then he made the video out of it and yeah, it just turned out awesome. It was pretty fitting for the song too, ‘cause it was supposed to be a band anthem, so it was cool that it showed what it’s like on tour for us.

Keeping in that same vibe of it being super jolly, which I think most people don’t expect from metal, the video for “Bruane Brenn” is super fun with the kids playing the band.


Who came up with that, how did you guys think of that?

We just asked a friend of ours who makes movies in Norway — he’s a movie director — and he’s made a lot of good movies, and it’s just kind of his style. We just asked him to do a video and he just did his own thing with it and I thought it turned out awesome cause… [pauses]

The kid playing you is super into it!

Yeah! [laughs] Yeah it was great! And I dunno, I guess we kinda feel like kids when we’re playing music and it’s just fun to like, show a different side of the music. Even if our music can sometimes be dark, we’re also a bunch of guys who like to have fun.

I think that shows a lot in your videos.

Yeah it’s important to include that too.

I noticed that in a few videos there’s an owl, and the first time I saw it I thought it was a live owl that you were holding up and was about to fly off. I’m a really big fan of Twin Peaks (Erlend: Yeah!), and I actually wondered if it has anything to do with like, “The owls are not what they seem?” But what’s the deal with the owl?

Yeah I’m a fan of Twin Peaks too, but I don’t think that’s where it’s from. It’s kinda random, it came about when we needed a cover for a homemade demo collection we made back in 2007. Our bass player just came up with the idea of having an owl on the cover and then our guitarist Bjarte [Lund Rolland] made the cover. He found an owl online and just made the cover himself. And it just stuck with the band ever since, he’s kind of become a mascot.

Do you bring him on tour?

Yeah, actually! It’s starting to get pretty beat up, after a while, this owl, or the owl mask. Like a few days ago the tail fell off, and we had already fixed it a couple of times, so we’ll see how long it lasts. But I think maybe we’ll have to do something different on the next one because it’s just gonna fall apart.

Is the tail dead and gone now?

It’s in the box! So maybe we’ll reattach it.

Who’s the artist for the “Evig Vandrar” video?

Yeah, that’s another friend of ours, his name is Torjus [Førre Erfjord]. We just discovered him because he had a band in Stavanger where we live called Ultra Sheriff, and he made awesome animated videos for it, and then he started studying animation and stuff. So the video for “Blodtørst” was actually, I guess you could call it like a bachelor assignment for him. I think he aced the project with the video, it just turned out great I think. He made the “Blodtørst” video and it was so good, so we asked him again to do the video for “Evig Vandrar.” We have a couple of friends who make awesome videos, so we try to use those people as much as we can.

How’s touring with Gojira and Mastodon?

It’s awesome, yeah! We did this same tour before the summer, with the same line-up and it was a lot of different places. It was more on the West Coast and some different places in Canada, but yeah, it’s just a great tour. They asked us to do it again and it was just impossible to say no. It’s a great bunch of guys and there’s really good chemistry among the people on this tour, and it’s just great being on tour with two of the best live bands in the world. It’s really inspiring to be playing with bands that are that good. It makes us better too.

You think it has an impact on how you play?

Yeah, it’s just so inspiring. We try to step up our game when we’re with bands like that.

Plus maybe when you’re an opening and lesser known band and you’re opening for a band like Mastodon who has a huge following you wanna make sure to impress as much.

Yeah, but we’ve been pretty lucky on this tour and last. I dunno, we’re the first band playing but people still show up early and most of the room is pretty packed already when we go onstage, so that’s a great thing. ‘Cause normally it can be a pretty thankless job being the first band but that isn’t the case at all on this tour, so it’s been great.

I did hear that Brent [Hinds, of Mastodon] has been giving some guitar lessons on tour. Have you taken any classes with him, or maybe shared some riffs?

Yeah I don’t know how to play guitar, but maybe you should try one of those lessons one day [speaking to guitarist Bjarte Lund Rolland who has just walked in]. I think they do it every day and they get paid for it so I think it’s just a good side business for those guys. Both Bill and Brent are doing it.

I think that’s most of my questions…

That was easy!

Photo by Adam Reider. 

A solid line-up thrilled a full house of rockers and metal heads at the Metropolis on October 29. Norwegians Kvelertak and French band Gojira both opened for Mastodon on their only Canadian tour date in support of their most recent album, Once More ‘Round The Sun.

By the time Kvelertak took to the stage, the venue was already crawling with masses. Singer Erlend Hjelvik donned the band’s mascot, an owl, on his head through the first song, engaging the crowd as he pounced around. The band seemed to be having a blast, breezing through their half hour set the only way a six-piece triple-guitar threat could: with power. To those who had never seen the band perform or even heard of them before, Kvelertak proved they are way more than just a warm-up band.

Packed to the gills by the end of their set, fans at Metropolis cheered for Gojira while they waited for the French band to appear. A set-up of stacked amps made each member stand out, with their drummer sitting atop it and punctuating each riff with flailing arms. Though I don’t generally go out of my way to listen to them, Gojira’s live show made me reconsider this. They were beyond impressive. Their percussive sound, their light show and their presence command attention. It felt like I was being crushed, in a good way. Singer Joe Duplantier spoke in his native French to thank the crowd for making the tour such a triumph in each city, and announced that they’ll be working on new material and touring again soon.

Though Mastodon are seasoned musicians who’ve been touring and playing together for ages, they always deliver a more than satisfying show, never simply riding on their success to keep fans happy. The technical prowess of guitarists Bill Keliher and Brent Hinds are enough to make any novice cower. Watching them expertly layer their complex riffs live is jaw dropping. What stood out the most for me was how slick and tight the band sounded.

Bassist and vocalist Troy Davies’ growl was authoritative, and drummer Brann Dailor always baffles with his ability to project his voice from beyond his kit. In keeping with their tradition of not dipping into their old material too much, Mastodon’s lengthy set largely consisted of songs off their latest effort, peppered with a handful of tunes from their previous albums, including “Blasteroid” off The Hunter and Leviathan opener “Blood and Thunder,” but to my dismay, no “March of the Fire Ants” (from Remission). Dailor emerged and offered a hearty thanks to the bands on the bill and the crowd for making them feel so welcome every time they visit, and offered “Pendulous Skin” over the loudspeakers in lieu of an encore in homage to the band’s late friend Ikey Owens, who was a keyboardist for Jack White. The show felt like an intimate one, even personal, even with a couple thousand fans in attendance.

Click on the photo to launch the slideshow. Photos by Adam Reider. 

With each album, Mastodon step it up a notch. Whereas other bands are content with following an easy formula simply because it works, one of the many things that sets Mastodon apart from the rest is their ability to evolve while still remaining true to their specific sound. They’ve gracefully and skillfully moved away from their early concept albums (which, to be fair, are nothing short of epic, to use the term correctly) towards critically acclaimed, melodic albums with a full sound, proving their talents are not purely technical.

Mastodon’s latest effort, Once More ‘Round The Sun, is a perfect example of this. It’ a powerful follow-up to 2011’s The Hunter. Their first albums featured the work of artist Paul Romano, but they’ve enlisted Oakland-based artist Skinner for their last two releases. Still, the artwork echoes their sound, and remains trippy as hell.

Though they’re pegged as a metal band, a close listen reveals punk, psychedelic, sludge and thrash influences, making for an exceptionally wild sound. Part of Mastodon’s appeal isn’t only that their music somehow seems accessible to folks who wouldn’t usually listen to such heavy music, but also that each member is active in shaping the band’s sound. What could be mistaken for ego is actually character and confidence. We’ve heard more than a few stories of creative differences causing rifts between band members, but in Mastodon’s case, it feels like ego has never even been an issue, and they simply want to put forth their best for the benefit of a good tune. The emphasis isn’t placed on any single band member, keeping things interesting without confusing the listener or making it seem like they’re trying too hard. They’ve always worked as a team, passing the puck from one musician to the next and swapping vocal duties, complementing one another perfectly and crafting some seriously stunning tracks. The production is crisp, and one can only imagine what it will sound like live.

Their last Montreal show was in November 2011, and their presence was so incredible that I thought of it for days. They were every much the massive beast their name suggests, and there’s no way I’d miss their upcoming show on October 29. Openers Gojira, from France, and Kvelertak, a six-piece from Norway, are both lesser-known bands that still fit the bill: loud, fast, with great technical abilities and vocals that command attention – nothing that will disappoint a Mastodon fan. Don’t miss this one: it promises to blow the doors right off.

Mastodon perform with Gojira and Kvelertak Wednesday, October 29 at Metropolis. Doors open at 6 p.m., $41.50 in advance or $47 at the door.



Formed in January 2012, this Canadian band boasts former members of established metalcore acts Despised Icon and Blind Witness. Their debut album Young Blood displays a no-frills, straightforward approach in a genre that is flooded with bands trying to do too many fancy things. Simple and unpretentious but packs a mean punch.

Obey The Brave play Saturday, August 10 at 1 p.m. on the Molson Canadian stage. 



This is a good example of a band doing lots of fancy things but in a well-executed manner. Their 6th release to date, Elite, was released earlier this year. It features rapidly changing tempos and a machine-gun stop-and-go style built on solid melodies.

Within The Ruins play Saturday, August 10 at 2 p.m. on the Galaxie stage. 



Yes, this is the legendary NYC hardcore band. Many of the bands playing Heavy MTL owe it all to these pioneers of heavy music. Although they celebrated their 25th anniversary as a band in 2011, Sick Of It All show no signs of slowing down and are working on a new record, no release date as of yet.

Sick Of It All play Saturday, August 10 at 3:30 p.m. on the Jägermeister stage. 



This is dark, relentless deathcore at its most frightening. The members of this band do not eat food and breathe air to stay alive like the rest of us. They sustain themselves on pure rage and aggression. Possibly the most violent pit you’ll see all day.

Oceano play Saturday, August 10 at 5 p.m. on the Galaxie stage. 



They beat out over 200 applicants and 20 qualifiers for one of two winning spots at this year’s En route vers Heavy MTL, a battle of the bands that takes place over several months leading up to the festival. They effortlessly blend the traditional heavy riffs and fast drumming with electronic elements reminiscent of bands like Between the Buried and Me.

Of Temples play Sunday, August 11 at 1 p.m. on the Galaxie stage. 



This Finnish band’s music immediately makes me think of Taco Bell’s Fries Supreme: excessive, unnecessary, drowning in cheese but comforting and irresistible in its own special way.

Finntroll play Sunday, August 11 at 2:30 p.m. on the Molson Canadian stage. 



There is nothing to say about Mastodon that hasn’t already been said. They are one of the most original bands making heavy music today. Their music pushes boundaries not only in terms of playing style but also in their wacky lyrical concepts and mind-bending album art. Their live shows are a total-body experience incorporating all the senses.

Mastodon play Sunday, August 11 at 7:15 p.m. on the Molson Canadian stage.



The Ontario band released their first album not even a year ago but there’s already an international buzz around them. They are signed to Sargent House, home of Rodriguez Lopez Productions and bands like Boris, Fang Island, and Russian Circles. Indian Handcrafts are spacey, sludgey garage rock mixed with operatic, screechy guitars and a punk flavour reminiscent of Dead Kennedys.

Indian Handcrafts play Sunday, August 11 at 3 p.m. on the Galaxie stage. 

Featured photo by Susan Moss for Heavy MTL. For a complete schedule and ticket info, visit the Heavy MTL website