During this period, playing in bands was purely a fun distraction from the monotony of hard labour and even harder living. Tours with self-destructive punk unit Happy Dagger and cult darlings The Good, The Bad And The Zugly were luxuries that came with the bonus of a hot shower and a warm bed for the night (“I always brought my clothes so I could wash them, because they don’t really get clean in a cold river,” he adds). “I know it sounds boring, but I’ve never felt the need to make music,” says Ivar, who simply sees himself as “a guy in a band with attitude,” and no backup plan.
Ivar was down, but by no means out. Unbeknownst to him, though, his path would soon converge with Kvelertak once more, but not before his friends would experience their own years in the wilderness.
“We did have fun, but it feels almost like a different life,” says Vidar, recalling the storm of popularity and accolades whipped up by their debut and 2013 follow-up Meir. “We played at a venue called Slim’s in San Francisco, and when we went onstage James Hetfield was in the front row, headbanging. He came to say hi afterwards. It was unreal.”
With friends in high places and America embracing their wild clash of black metal, punk and fist-pumping rock, the whirlwind effect intensified as Kvelertak found themselves sharing stages with Slayer, Anthrax, Gojira and Mastodon. Meanwhile, the power metal flirtations of 2016’s Nattesferd made them a no-brainer to open Ghost’s Popestar tour, before Metallica personally invited them to open the European leg of their mammoth WorldWired Tour in 2017.
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But as the legend of Icarus warns us, fly too close to the sun and you’re bound for a fall. From the outside Kvelertak were soaring, but behind the owl mask things were starting to unravel. Erlend voiced his desire to quit just before the Metallica tour.
“It was especially weird at that time when somebody wanted to leave the band while everything we had worked really hard for all these years was finally happening,” says Vidar of the strangeness of having to win over huge arenas as a united front while internally paths were diverging. Original drummer Kjetil Gjermundrød would also step away in 2019 to form Tempel with his brothers. “Not only with the Erlend situation, the whole vibe of the band was we were burned out. A lot was coming through managers, so we left our management and tried to regain a little control by actually talking to each other.”