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It’s pretty clear that Taake are a black metal band that never cease to amaze. Their first four full lengths (three of them to be considered instant classics) spurt with raw aggression yet also show a great deal of creativity and originality that still ceases to exist in many new black metal bands today. From the passionate guitar melodies to Hoest’s spine-tingling shrieks, it is clear that Taake have left their mark in the grim history of black metal, and they’re just getting started. Their newest output is an EP called “Kveld”, a promotion for a new full length being to be released in September (or so I’ve heard). Like the other Taake releases it doesn’t disappoint. While it only consists of four rerecorded tracks and 1 brand new song, the recordings sound very crisp and clear, and the new song is absolutely fantastic.
The first thing that should be mentioned is the overall quality of the recordings, the sound of the whole record. One rumour I’ve heard is that “Kveld” is a ‘live off the floor’ studio recording which would explain the great sound of the EP, however whether or not it is true it is definitely the best sounding Taake record to date. Every instrument sounds very clear and is mixed how they should be. The production sounds very similar to their third album “Hordalands Doedskvad”, except the difference between “Doedskvad” and “Kveld” is that “Kveld” has a much fuller sound in every way. The guitars aren’t fully based around treble. Their tone here is much more balanced than it ever has been, and this is great because it makes it easier to hear what they are actually doing instead of hearing just a wall of distortion. The distortion level on the self titled album was way too high to the point where a lot of notes would just blend together into a big melted mass of a chord (listen to the slower section of “Umenneske”), but on “Kveld” it is turned down just enough to have every string and note brought out while still keeping that cold and grim black metal sound. Along with that, every drum has a clear tone, the cymbals cut through the recording very nicely and the bass guitar is actually heard in the recording! The average bass player might enjoy listening to this EP more than he/she has with other Taake recordings, because their instrument can actually be heard through the wall of sound (there is a very cool bass melody in the ending movement of “Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik IV” that I never knew was there before, justifying that this is an improved production). As for Hoest’s vocals, it’s the same news as always. He doesn’t disappoint, and his screams are sounding better than ever, particularly stronger. I’ve heard every Taake album up to this point, and there have been numerous times where Hoest would be doing a longer screaming and slowly start to lose his breath, but there is absolutely none of that here. His ability to maintain a strong scream has improved dramatically. To sum up the production, it’s very clear and easy to listen to, however this actually might be a negative aspect for some people. I’ve heard black metal fans say that this recording lacks atmosphere, and that’s no secret. However what one thinks of the production is their own opinion, depending on what they value. For me personally, I’d rather have the production suffer with less atmosphere if it meant that it could be strengthened with clarity. This was one of the things that bothered me with “Nattestid Ser Porten Vid”. While the material on that album was top notch and reeking with atmosphere, the overall production was so horrific that to this day I still tend to have difficulty figuring out what the instruments are actually doing. This is one of the reasons why I give a lot of respect towards bands like Marduk and Dark Funeral who always have very great production. Don’t get me wrong, this EP still has atmosphere just not as much as some fans might expect. Of course, it all depends on what your idea of atmosphere is.
Some might say that this EP is pointless considering the fact that 80% of it is old material, however the remaining 20% consists of a brand new Taake song that is absolutely astounding. With “Nordbundet”, it seems like the band is reaching back to their raw and aggressive roots of “Nattestid Ser Porten Vid”. This direction was also displayed throughout their self titled album, however the difference between the self titled and “Nordbundet” is that this time around Taake has more maturity with this direction. The band isn’t just trying to sound aggressive the whole time, there is a more prominent balance of everything that Taake is known for in this song. The guitars are displaying a great mixture of aggression with that same melodic sound that Taake have become known for, switching between heavy grooves and intricate harmonious sections that really help bring lots of musicality to the black metal (even throwing in a short but tasteful solo at 3:30 in the song), and the bass adds to the rhythm section by making the harmonies more noticeable and making the overall theme of the song stand out. The riff arrangements also help “Nordbundet” build and climax perfectly, however this should be no surprise considering that Taake have mastered how to make complex song structures. The percussion is also displaying creativity, showing more dynamic patterns in the grooves played at the beginning and the utilization of every drum, and different types of beats being played throughout the song help it breathe new life and spark the listener’s interest, an example being the faster section of the song. A very generic and common black metal drum pattern is what I like to call the “scissor beat (the drummers arms look like a pair of scissors when doing this)” and it consists of fast alternations between a cymbal and the snare drum (listen to any song from Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger”), and while this is heard at the start of the fast movement of the song, it does change with the inclusion of more dynamic 2/4 and 3/4 beats, helping to create slower sections that help bring out the beauty of the guitar’s harmonies. In short, every instrument is shining new light and displaying vast amounts of originality, and overall creating an incredibly enjoyable song to listen to over and over again.
To sum it up, Taake’s “Kveld” is a great EP. It’s great to listen to front to back, although I wouldn’t call it essential. This is mainly because of what is actually on the EP; it’s mainly for diehard Taake fans. The only thing I would change about “Kveld” is to include the clean singing in “Nattestid Ser Porten Vid I” (there are movements in the beginning and end of the song that originally had some clean singing, and they added lots of atmosphere to the music as well as an absolutely genius blend of different melodies. This was taken out in the rerecording and replaced by screaming), but other than that everything is top notch Taake. The songs are stellar, the performance is tight and the whole vibe of the EP is amazing. On a final note, if “Nordbundet” really is a sign of what’s to come in the next full length, then I feel that the black metal world should prepare itself for possibly a fourth Taake classic.
My final rating of Taake’s “Kveld” is 85/100.
Based on the trilogy of the first three albums, Taake is rightfully regarded as one of the best examples of a band very much molded in the Second Wave tradition of black metal composition but one that still manages to sound fresh. However, the self-titled album of 2008 along with the Nekro EP before it showed a small but noted drop in quality from the band. Perhaps Hoest ran out of creative steam, but whatever the reason, these releases didn't quite reach the bar set by the first three albums.
Three years on from the last album and instead of a new album we get this EP. And I must say that I'm quite disappointed, not because it isn't a new album, though that would be awesome, but because of what's contained on this EP. Of the five songs, only one of them is entirely new, Nordbundet. The song itself starts off with a slow but catchy groove that continues for a good two-thirds of the total length, while patiently building up to the final third, which bursts into a faster tremoloed soundscape that reminds one of the Taake of old.
So the new material on this EP is good, but comprises only a single track. The next four songs are rather superfluous. All of them are merely re-recorded tracks taken from previous albums. One might expect them to be live versions, but this is not the case. What is more, there is virtually no notable difference between them and the original versions in terms of production. This is not to say that these songs are bad, because they aren't, but I don't see any reason to include them on this EP. If one owns Taake's previous albums, these re-recorded songs are quite obviously pointless.
Of one final note is that Hoest recently collaborated with fellow Norwegians Helheim on an excellent new EP and album from that band which saw them return to a more original sound, and I think it's fair to say that both Taake and Helheim share a lot in common in terms of their earlier respective sounds. It may have only been vocals that Hoest contributed, but I can't help but feel that maybe the songs themselves rubbed off on him too. Based on the new track from the EP reviewed here and the collaboration just mentioned, I think it's fair to say that if and when a new Taake album is announced, it will definitely be something to look forward to.