As the nights are drawing in and we face the prospect of a grim and frostbitten winter- or at least a chilly and slushy one-what better way to prepare for the dark months ahead than switching on a slice of Taake and let its mastermind Hoest (English: Autumn) guide you through the change from equinox to solstice. Sensible winter cloaks and Norwegian black metal are so this season.
Taake burst on to the Norwegian Black Metal scene during the unhallowed years that saw the birth of the mutated 2nd wave. Taake stems from an old Norwegian word for “fog” and skulks round in its namesake as a many headed beast whose line up shifts an mutates more often than most kvlt basement dwelling kiddies change their underwear. Despite the Piccadilly Circus atmosphere of the live line up, the malevolent creative force that birthed and guides the beast remains constant. Frontman, lyricist and guitarist Ørjan Stedjeberg rarely goes by his Sunday name, presenting instead as Ulvhedin Hoest. However, thanks to an onstage wardrobe malfunction and the bedevilment of Blabbermouth, he is sadly better known for infamously offering his meat and two veg to Satan, than for any musical endeavour.
You certainly know you’re a 90s (Norwegian Black Metal) child when you are no stranger to controversy and brushes with the law. Hoest has been particularly well acquainted with both. After getting out of jail for the 3rd time, he has been a busy man, churning out EP “Kveld” and a full studio album in the same year. “Noregs Vaapen” is his 5th full length effort to date, and by far the most enigmatic and varied.
Hoest has many surprises wedged up the billowing sleeves of his cumbersome cloak – not least the three notable names in Black Metal that cameo throughout. Keep your ears tuned to pick out no less than Nocturno Culto , Demonaz and Atilla Csihar grating away at various intervals. Not one to boast, Hoest doesn’t declare these collaborations in the track notation, therefore spicing up the album with an aural version of “Where’s Wally?” (or perhaps “Vhere is Varg?”)
As has become the norm with Taake, folk tinged riffs and full-on folk melodies hobnob with true black art. The production values are higher than in previous outputs, though this is far from venturing into “polished turd” territory. Rawness emanates from the instruments themselves, but clearer sound enables the layers and textures to be appreciated rather than ridden roughshod by static. The harmonies that swirl above the vortex of good old blastbeats in opener ‘Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed’ should bring even the most lo-fi loving urchin to thank Saint Nick for throwing a higher quality tape into the recorder when Taake were in studio.
Building on the solid base of black metal, Hoest skilfully piles up more and more tasty toppings and combinations for listeners to revel in, spit out, or cry over. A recurring theme in the oddball section would be the employment of stringed instruments not normally considered to be in Satan’s repertoire, kicking off with the high pitched yet tuneful violin melody in first track that soars like a mighty raven over the jagged mountains of the usual guitar melee. He dons some leather in readiness for the Black and Roll ready to surface in ‘Norbundet’ and‘Du Ville Ville Vestland”. The latter showcasing shimmery arpeggios and some thrashy fret wankery as the track does far from bow out gracefully.
The best surprise of the album pops up unexpectedly on 5th track ‘Myr’ in the form of a banjo solo that though it evokes an image of cotton eye Joe dancing around the viscera splattered set of True Blood it oddly works over the the strumming of a son of northern darkness. A rousing rabble of folk singers “ahhing” nearly tear it on ‘Helvetesmakt’ but manage stay just the right side of caterwauling.
The “all together now” of the album ensues, skipping through tempo changes like a mountain goat spooked by the hollow shouts that pepper the track and blinded by dizzying riffs. The beast finally calms, the wall of sound fades and many headed beast is assimilated into the fog it came from with the echo of strangled strings.
Taake have certainly presented a hefty bag of trick or treat surprises rummage through on an autumn night. With enough nuggets and nuances to keep the fussiest fan happy, this offering will be whirring in the CD player long after winter cloaks have been rammed back in the loft.