Maybe I am the only Goth in the village that is not intimately familiar with Kvlt, but on the off chance that some of you are as clueless as I was until recently, I’m here to evangelise to you about this niche genre of thrash metal that’s home seems to be the Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden and Norway.
While not generally well-known for their abundance of metal heads, I used to work in both of these two countries regularly and while there, was surprised at the abundance of Goth/alt/metal folk I used to see in passing there, and so I reckon Kvlt is actually a pretty big thing in parts of the freezing Norf.
So, what is it, is it worth listening to, and are you unknowingly listening to it already? Let’s find out.
What is it?
If the only Scandinavian band that you can currently name is The Rasmus, of early noughties two-hit-wonder fame, you’re not strictly on the right track, but you’re not far off. Think of The Rasmus as nursery-school Kvlt, although they actually popped out of nappies well after Kvlt’s heyday.
Kvlt is alternatively referred to as (Scandinavian, specifically) black metal, and is considered to be an “extreme subgenre and subculture” of heavy metal. Key elements of the music, according to Wikipedia, include shrieking vocals, fast tempos, distorted guitar riffs and unconventional musical structures, all designed to produce a moody, atmospheric feeling that is often delivered by artists styled in corpse paint a ’la Alice Cooper.
Not actually Kvlt.
There is a fair amount of blending and crossover between Kvlt/black metal and Goth, and I strongly suspect that in the average 2.4 children household, we’re all the same reprobates.
Kvlt is not simply a musical styling, but a very clearly delineated subculture as well, with the core tenets of Kvlt involving a strong following of specific ethos and ideologies, including individualism above all, a strong opposition to organised Christianity and other mainstream religions, and a lot of crossover with both Satanism and paganism, depending on who you ask.
While a lot of Kvlt lyrics and genres involve a reasonable amount of Satanic imagery, lyrics and themes, much of this is commonly perceived to be performance art designed to provoke a reaction, rather than being the heartfelt screaming of practicing Satanists.
Kvlt as we know it today goes back to roots in the early 1980’s and maintained a reasonable market hold up until the late 90’s, so there are a significant number of both artists and tunes associated with the genre from these eras.
If you want to have a listen and decide if Kvlt is for you or not, some of the most notable big hitters include British band Venom (Newcastle falls under the “freezing North” category in my book…), Norwegians Darkthrone, and Swiss band Samael.
Check out Welcome to Hell by Venom:
Transylvanian Hunger by Darkthrone:
And Slavocracy by Samael, for a crash-course in some of the most well regarded songs of the genre.