While most of the Norwegian black metal elite are now either content to parody the true metal scene (Darkthrone), indulge their love of Pink Floyd to the nth degree (Enslaved) or position themselves as a laughing stock (Burzum), it’s satisfying that there are still some artists who are content to keep things grim and frostbitten. Bergen bad-boy Hoest is one such kvlt warrior who has done things his own, solitary way for the past twenty years with his band Taake, arguably one of the better examples of the 3rd wave of black metal. Sticking to a rigid schedule of releasing a new album every three years, “Stridens Hus” (House of Strife) is the first Taake effort to feature members of Hoest’s backing band, and the decision to allow outsiders in has proved to not be entirely successful.
Sticking with the loud, treble-heavy guitar assault that has been the Taake modus operandi ever since they formed back in 1995, “Stridens Hus” starts strongly with the icy guitars and eerie atmospherics of ‘Gamle Norig’ marching off into some snowbound forest, with the cleaner melodic lines and faster drumbeat that develop towards the end of the song demonstrating just how restless Hoest still is when it comes to songwriting. ‘Orm’ soon follows which is a punk rock song in all but name, with just a hint of fellow Norwegians Kvelertak lurking amid the clanking bass and beer-swilling vibes. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it surf rock solo that pops up halfway through is another unexpected highlight.
By contrast, the overlong ‘Det fins et prins’ features some satisfying variations in pace and interesting vocal patterns ranging from harrowing shrieks to Gregorian chants, but loses direction about halfway through, with the overall impression being that Hoest still struggles with drawing his compositions to a natural conclusion, not helped by the similarly dull instrumental ‘En Sang Til Sand Om Ildebrann’. Thankfully things improve on the sinister raw black metal of ‘Stank’ which revels in its barren tonality before morphing into an exercise in mid-period Darkthrone worship which again features an incongruous solo, this time of the bluegrass variety, while the raging fury and dual-tremolo of closing track ‘Vinger’ is a reminder of the piss and vinegar which still surges through this band’s veins.
While many fans will moan that this new effort isn’t as good as 2005’s “Hordalands doedskvad”, they will undoubtedly be right, but that doesn’t mean that “Stridens Hus” isn’t another strong effort and a worthy string to Hoest’s bow. Granted, he mainly writes riffs rather than actual songs, but their distinctive sound and visceral power is a worthy reminder that Norwegian black metal still has a future, and this frost-coated, razor-sharp nugget of hate is living proof.