Taake – Stridens hus (Dark Essence/Candlelight Records)Tuesday, 9th December 2014
Taake (pronounced “Toah-keh”), the one-man black metal band out of Bergen, is the music of Hoest (AKA Ørjan Stedjeberg) who has been cranking out seminal releases in the genre since his first full length in 1999’s Nattestid ser porten vid. After the acclaimed debut, and a subsequent release in 2002, 2005’s Hordaland doedskvad was released, and remains one of the best black metal albums ever made. Next came the self-titled 2008 release, and then the penultimate Noregs vaapen album in 2011. A strong album which delighted fans with the memorable “Myr”, a song featuring a prominent, killer, banjo solo. Such an addition to Norwegian black metal is the kind of unconventionality that Hoest brings to the table. His black metal is ferocious yet groovy. It’s angular but melodic. It’s volatile yet controlled, and clearly honed.
A controversial figure, Hoest has provided comedic fodder for the black metal world with this revealing photo during a live performance (click HERE to view the NSFW pic), and took a lot of shit for performing a show in Germany with a swastika drawn on his chest in 2007. Regarding the swastika incident, the singer issued a statement denying all ties to politics or Nazism, only saying the display was meant to be provocative – which it clearly was.
Now as far as this latest album, Stridens hus, Hoest has included some members of his live band for the recording process. Insofar as to what level is not clear, but what is evident is that all instruments are played spectacularly. As with most Taake tunes, each one is packed with great riffs. Actually, these riffs have never sounded better – with fantastic production, everything pops. Great interplay between bass and guitar, along with stellar drumming create ferocious grooves enough to make one’s neck sore, and one’s brain unable to predict the next dynamic move. Inventive and nimble-fingered guitar play really shines on this album (as per usual for Taake). It seems like there is a never-ending supply of left-field, delightful riffs on these tunes, and living up to the “banjo incident” on the last one, there are some blues-based surprises in store for the listener, which may sound unsavory on paper, but my do they work. Vocally, Hoest remains as urgent as ever, his muscular rasp is biting and clear and highly venomous. Complete with a touch of Bathory-esque clean highlights on “Orm” and some fist-pumping gang vocals on “Stank”, Hoest is in perhaps his finest hour.
With not a weak spot to be found, this album surpasses Noregs vaapen – Taake being on top of their game here. In fact, Stridens hus could very well go down as the best Taake album to date. Superb.