Svolk have always worn their influences with honesty and transparency. Back in 2011, the re-release of their 2009 self titled debut saw the band garner a bit more critical and audience attention, coming, as it did , with the burgeoning creativity emanating from the gloopy swamps of the southern United States. That Svolk hail from Norway only added to the interest in their straightforward but hugely entertaining brand of rock and metal. Svolk Em All- the aforesaid debut was full of vim, vigour and a bottle of bourbon
Nights Under the Round Table, their sophomore record, sees the band in a more metal groove than their rocky debut. Although the record is decent, it feels like two steps forward, one back. What they have added in edge and power, they seem to have lost in creativity and wit. The album starts well enough with the no messing about Living by the Sword and you can’t really fault a band with the chutzpah and love of wordplay to call a song Bearserk but elsewhere there is a bit too much sludgy doom that drags and drones rather than inspires or embellishes the band’s overall sound. That said, there is quite a bit to like about Fallen and there is an echo of Pentagram infusing Feed Your Soul which is good, if you like this sort of thing. You could, of course, just listen to Pentagram.
As you might suspect, then, Knights Under the Round Table is something of a curate’s egg: it’s good in parts. It’s pleasing to hear Svolk develop their sound and push things forward musically and sonically but part of my attraction to them in the first place was that they were not about pushing things forward- they were about grooving and drinking and rocking. They were not massively ambitious and seemed completely happy within the limitations of their art. There was a sense of fun about their debut that I detect they are losing a little bit on this latest album: they have gone all serious on us. It isn’t an entirely welcome development to these ears. if you’re coming to this band for the first time, you’ll probably lap it up like a thirsty dog.
Nights Under the Round Table will probably grow the band’s fanbase and, don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff here but ultimately I thought they could have done with an editor, a better sense of variation and a better glint in the eye. Solid, but no surprises. It will be intriguing to see where they go next.