We’ve reviewed several albums, EPs, and 7“s from the Swedish band Kevlar, and still it was a surprise to me to hear the band’s third full-length. Perhaps being forced to change its name by a certain corporation and finding a new bass player was just what this four-piece needed, because as good as previous Kevlar recordings were, this album clearly is the band’s best to date, and it may just be the best thing I’ve yet to hear coming out of Sweden. (Take that, Hives!)

Essentially, KVLR is still playing high-energy rock, driven by powerful guitar chords and Johan Sellman’s uniquely low-pitched vocals. But on this album, the band took the approach of keeping things simple and recording live as much as possible. It certainly worked for this band, because this album is full of energy, extremely fun, and still remarkably tight and precise.

A ridiculously catchy power-chord starts off the album on “Last Rhyme,” and kicks things off nicely. And it’s a nice lead-in to the more mid-tempo, jangly “Fed on the Hook,” which has perhaps the album’s most catchy chorus. “Slow Clapping” is suitably named due to its repetitive but catchy rhythm, and the perfect mid-tempo “The Red Bulletin” makes me want to repeat the song numerous times. Surprisingly, “Road Closure” is almost mellow, with enough jangle and light, chiming quality to make me smile.

The band does show off its heavier side on tracks like the pounding, relentless, yet always under-control “Spit.” The opening to “Traitors and Thieves” reminds me of my favorite style of mid-90s rock, but the song definitely takes things in a more modern and powerful direction. Again, I hear that mid-90s vibe on “Birthcam,” and the female vocals (courtesy of Lena Karlsson from Komeda) are a nice touch. The closing “What’s Left Belongs to No One” gets darker, a bit more aggressive without losing the band’s deft touch.

Somehow, this KVLR album reminds me of Archers of Loaf. Both bands have the ability to make their music seem simple and yet extremely tight and catchy. KVLR really surprised me on this release, because while I always expect good things from this Swedish outfit, I wasn’t expecting to like the latest offering this much. It’s definitely one of my favorite rock albums of the year.