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Hordalands Brilliance - 98%

hardie03, November 20th, 2009

Taake is an interesting band. Hordalands Doedskvad was the first ‘extreme metal’ album I heard, and it is still one of my favourites, with possibly only ‘Over Bjorgvin Graater Himmerik’ (also by Taake), the legendary ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ by Mayhem, and XIV Dark Centuries’ ‘Den Ahnen zum Grusse’ going close to rivalling this piece of musical mastery.

The releases that make up my so-called ‘favourites’ are an interesting mix. Apart from the Mayhem classic, released in 1994, these albums were all released post-2002. This highlights a problem of black metal, stemming from the end of the “second wave” of the Norwegian Black Metal movement. There has been no evolution, no breakthroughs, yet also no bands playing – literally to the core – black metal, whilst also bringing something new to the genre. Many bands have tried, until they ended up not playing black metal. This was the problem of the late 90’s and early 00’s.

Until Taake came along.

Whilst Hoest released a couple of releases under the name of Thule (see Der Vinterstormene Raste for the better of the two IMO), he didn’t release a real gem until 1999 with Nattestid Ser Porten Vid. That, and Over Bjorgvin Graater Himmerik took me quite a while to immerse myself in, taking many listens until they reached the level where they are at now, being a pivotal part of my musical listening experience. But it was Hordalands Doedskvad which introduced me to the scene, and the musical creativity that exists in the black forests and mountains of Norway. Listening to this for the first time was like my first day of school. I had been dreaming of the moment for so long, that moment where I instantly found a new life, but I never knew what to expect until it had already happened. I knew Hordalands would be hard, would be evil, would be dark, inevitably it would be BLACK. However, I didn’t think I would be writing a review for it, I didn’t think it would change my life, and I certainly didn’t think a piece of music could literally touch my soul.

The intense scream that begins the journey is what turns off most of my mates who I make listen to this, but it draws me in, to a point where any ‘death scream’ is a disappointment. I don’t want to list a song-by-song review, but there are key points in songs which I really want to point out. From intense blast beats and riffs, to the drums merely acting as an instrument to keep the beat, and not submissively beat your skull, to the bass adding strength, and then the vocals. WOW! They are what makes this album. The passion, the viciousness, and the addition of Nattefrost on some songs really make this album so outstanding.

But, what are those key points, the key pieces of melody, you may be asking? Part I, at 4:10 features some extreme growls from Hoest (definantly not the harshest on the album, however), but then dramatically slows down in tempo at 4:30, introducing a short but amazingly sweet piano interlude, and at 4:58 just really sets the mood for the next entirely incomprehensible Norwegian ‘singing’ that is probably the highlight on the album for me. I listen to Part I probably twice a day just for the 20-odd seconds of piano!

Part V also offers something for the worthy. It is quite a different tempo to the rest of the album, I feel. At 1:20 you may hear something that, if slowed down to maybe ¾ speed, could VERY easily be present on a Billboard album. It’s a rock kind of breakdown, and this feeling continues throughout the song. The drumming is more of an addition to the soundscape the guitars are producing, instead of merely being blast beats in the background! It adds feeling to the song. You could put Dave Grohl behind the mic and it would be a Foo Fighters song, the musicianship is THAT good!

Overall, the guitarwork is exquisite, the drumming is amazing, and the vocals are breathtaking. Although I couldn’t understand a single thing said over the entire album (except for the obligatory ‘HEY’ and ‘OH’s’ throughout), it was one of the most rewarding musical experiences I have ever felt. This album opened up a new world to my ears, one that I haven’t left, and don’t plan on doing so. This is quite possibly one of the most intricate and spectacular releases I have bought in the last 3 years, and that’s saying a lot!