When covering the newest release from a group with a storied back catalogue, the question of how to approach the writing always exists.  Of course each album should be judged based on its own merits, but within that set of boundaries other issues arise: how it compares to the last record, how it compares to the first record, whether or not judgment should be passed based primarily upon kinship to or discordance from previous efforts.  This was certainly a pressing topic when formulating the approach to reviewing Taake’s new album, Stridens hus, since Taake’s influence on black metal and beyond is immeasurable.  After some deliberation (and whiskey), it was decided, since I am neither a black metal or Taake expert, to incorporate my limited knowledge of their previous work into the Stridens hus review effort, but minimally, and only as a basis for comparison—not judgment.

The one non-arguable point to get across about Stridens hus is related to its composition: this is no traditional black metal album by any sense of the word.  At parts it may somewhat resemble that, yes, but those parts generally lead into more experimental territory.  And if you are disgusted by that idea, please kindly avert your eyes.  However, the experimentation heard within this album is ripe and golden.  For those who don’t know, Taake (read: Hoest) have been trudging through the Norwegian black metal scene rather successfully for the past 20-plus years.  With that time and experience has come perfection of past musical ideals, and progression to previously unexplored realms.  Stridens hus marks the pinnacle of exploration for Taake and it couldn’t be more appropriate.  The biting cold, harsh atmosphere one would come to expect from any good black metal is there, as are the thrashy, punk-like “fuck you” moments.  Beautifully dire riffs?  Check.  Expertly timed nasty segments of evil repetition?  Check.  Soul-crushing vocals and musical themes?  Check.  So what’s new?

Musically, Taake begin Stridens hus where Noregs vaapen left off: lurking deep in the foggy forests of Norway with a slashing weapon at hand.  But suddenly there is a shift, and we leave Norwegian landscapes for…the beach?  A coffee shop?  The lonely Appalachian hobo banjo from Noregs vaapens “Myr”—strange and yet perfectly haunting and thus fitting—has since made friends with surfers and psychedelic musicians, and they’ve come along to ride the train that is Stridens hus.  Temporarily, at least.  Completely off-the-wall moments (for black metal, mind you) come into play numerous times.  The first is toward the end of opener “Gamle Norig,” where a dreamy yet fleeting echoing/delaying guitar section sneaks in.

Next, in “Orm,” psychedelic and otherworldly riffs and solos come in, as though Outer Limits-era Voivod has been transplanted into the Norwegian forests.  It’s offsetting initially, within the midst of dense layers of signature Taake riffing, but it quickly becomes acceptable, then agreeable, then essential.  Within tracks such as “Det fins en Prins” and “En sang til sand om ildebrann,” these experimental sections are less of a shock and come more in the form of modern and progressive elements to the song, a la Enslaved perhaps.  They are still angular and dissonant, yet they play in nicely.  The “hang ten” blurb in the middle of “Stank,” though, seems to come out of the blue (in a good way).

Definitely worth mentioning as well is the production value of Stridens hus.  It’s crisp and optimal for clarity, much unlike early Taake offerings, but never sounds overdone or contrived.  That’s a huge plus to me, and a sign of the strides Hoest/Taake has taken over the years—decades, even—on the path to black metal enlightenment.  There really is no big conclusion to be made here, though.  Taake rules, and Hoest will stop for no black metal purists on his quest to write the perfect album.  Throughout the years Taake’s music has evolved, but it’s never strayed too far from its original path.  And anyone who can’t appreciate a little growth probably sucks anyway.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jodi Van Walleghem
February 23rd, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Al Titmo

    Just my take, but every album should be approached and reviewed on it’s own merits and then only afterwards compared to previous works. (BTW, this albums is awesome.)


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