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Damn, I have waited for this album for so long. And it’s not the fact that “Noregs Vaapen” was released three years after “Taake” what caused the problem… It’s all because Taake is such a special band and really important for me, being of the greatest black metal acts of the present and I just must have their albums on vinyl only, I don’t take any CDs or (sick!) mp3… So, I just waited for the chance to get LP. The problem was that nowadays – when the vinyl is in fashion – the prices went up so fuckin much… If I compare how much I have been paying for the LPs 10 years ago and how much some new LPs have been priced now, it is just ridiculous. I sometimes just cannot afford them and also I don’t necessarily wanna pay the money for one LP, which normally would be enough to buy even three other LPs, if you know what I mean. That jewish mentality of people involved in the scene and distros, who put ridiculous prices for the records just pisses me off and I will never let those greedy bastards earn some extra money, just because they say they wanna 25-30 euros for the record. Fuck you, jewish motherfuckers. I don’t care… With “Noregs Vaapen” it was the same… Every time I have seen it here in Poland, it was priced just too much… And so I was waiting for better opportunity, I wanted the LP badly, but just couldn’t agree with some prices for which people wanted to sell it. Finally almost year and a half since “Noregs Vaapen” was originally released I caught the chance by the throat and managed to pick my copy of the vinyl for something like 12 euros, which was great and a big fuck off towards the greediness of people, who sell records (and sometimes buy three, four copies of it, only to sell them later for tripled price... die in pain!).
So, “Noregs Vaapen” is in my hands… and well, the layout for this record is twin to the one from “Taake”, which is cool. Again the front artwork has a different photography of Hoest than the CD version (the one from CD version comes again on the huge poster, which is a nice addition)… and again the whole thing is very minimalistic, just black / white colouring, no extra graphics, just simple texts and that’s it. You cannot expect any fireworks in the graphics from Taake and you won’t get them. It’s interesting to notice though that the lyrics are written with latin letters, while the CD version has them all written in runs… It may not look as effective, but at least I can read some of these lyrics and translate them, if I want to know what Hoest screams about.
First time I have played “Noregs Vaapen” I was standing in front of the speakers and just stayed like that for few minutes, with my mouth opened, such big impression this music made on me. I mean “Taake”, the previous LP, was kind of disappointment really. Sure, it is good and solid record, but for me it surely doesn’t match the fantastic quality of “Hordalands Doedskvad”, which so far was my favourite Taake recording. And now, when I listen to “Noregs Vaapen” I feel the same ecstasy and thrill, just like when I have listened to “Hordalands…”. Man, I am very happy and satisfied, if I can write that “Noregs Vaapen” definitely is as great and fantastic as the third Taake album and for sure these two are now my favourite pieces of music, which Hoest has ever composed and recorded. “Noregs Vaapen” is just killer, right from the very beginning, which is “Fra vadested til vaandesmed”… But let’s be honest – how can you not get possessed by that infectiously melodic and catchy riffage from this track? It certainly is one of the best Taake’s songs ever composed and I just worship it, listening to it constantly, sometimes I just play this side of the vinyl like four or five times in a row, so bloody good it is. The whole song is just awesome, I like everything about it, including that mellotron (!!!!!) part in the end, which just sound fantastic. Besides, any song, which includes Nocturno Culto doing some guest vocals is an instant classic and worth being remembered. “Fra vadested til vaandesmed” definitely is a classic anthem.
“Noregs Vaapen” hosts some more guest performances, of which the most memorable – along with Nocturno Culto – is the presence of Attila Csihar, V'gandr, Skagg and Demonaz all doing some vocals. Plus there’s a guitar contribution of such Norwegian artists as Ivar Bjørnson and Lava… And finally some Taake live musicians also contribute in one or more songs with their parts.
But any of those guest performances wouldn’t rescue an album, if the music was shit. In case of “Noregs Vaapen” it luckily is not and what’s more, it is just fantastic. No single song on the album is filler, in my opinion, and each is excellent. I already mentioned “Fra vadested til vaandesmed”, which is the best song, but you also must really give an extra attention to such anthems as “Nordbundet” (for which Attila contributed a small dose of his incredible and unique voice), “Orkan” with its killer riffs… And what can I write about “Myr”, which is a killer track, but which focused everyone’s attention mainly for the bonjo lead part? Man, I can only say it sounds fuckin bizarre... I have never heard anything like this before and I don’t really know where did Hoest take the idea to use this instrument? It doesn’t sound particularly good – I like the sound of mellotron much more… Country black metal is not what I would like to hear again, but for sure Taake did catch the attention with this bizarre idea. Anyway, I like the riffing in this song a lot, it is truly awesome and the whole beginning reminds me Satyricon a lot, and Satyricon is one of my favourite black metal bands ever, so it is something really cool. Then “Helvetesmakt” – again, one of the highlights of the LP – has some parts played on mandolin... To be honest the whole album is just utterly interesting and fantastically written, I think this LP is also the most diverse of all Taake works so far, even within one song the riffing can change drastically like in “Du ville ville Vestland”, which has kind of traditional heavy metal part in one fragment, what surely surprised me a lot, but worked very well.
I guess I should also mention the vinyl only bonus track – Emperor’s oldie called “I am the Black Wizards”. Man, the line up for this cover is truly awesome (Hoest and Attila on vocals, Ivar from Enslaved on guitar, V’gandr from Helheim on bass and Thurzur on drums) and the final effect is very, very impressive. They have played this song very close to the original, but it sounds almost better and I really mean it; I love it totally. The vocal performance of both Hoest and Attila is just excellent and the whole song sounds absolutely fantastic, this is CULT!
Style wise I guess Taake doesn’t surprise with anything new (except the bonjo, mandolin and mellotron of corpse, he!), if we compare “Noregs Vaapen” to the previous albums, but the thing is Hoest composed just some of his best songs here. I had the very same impression when I have listened to Grave’s “Endless Procession of Souls” LP. You know, this band has already released so many records, some better, some less, but meanwhile this tenth studio album of theirs brought some of the best songs Ola and his band has ever recorded and it turned out to be the best LP Grave have done ever since “You’ll Never See…”. Taake may not have a history, which would go as back as to the late 80’s and the number of the albums they have released is not as impressive yet - “Noregs Vaapen” is “only” the fifth full length, but having also so many EPs and demos it proves that it is still possible to write some of your best music after almost 20 years of musical activity (yeah, 20 years if we add Thule, which was formed in 1993). Also the production for “Noregs Vaapen” is way, way better and more powerful than on any previous release, so really, fuckin well done Hoest, you rule… and “Noregs Vaapen” is an album, which is just a must have for all black metal maniacs. I am very happy that finally I had a chance to listen to it and I have it on vinyl… it turns out that the long waiting was very rewarding to me.
Standout tracks: “Fra vadested til vaandesmed”, “Nordbundet”, “Helvetesmakt”, “Orkan”
Final rate: 99/100
Noregs Vaapen is an artistic conundrum. On the one hand it is a towering confluence of masterful riffs and composition, immensely satisfying in its synthesis of the sinister and celebratory. On the other hand, Taake mastermind Hoest attempts to ply a particular cognitive dissonance. Lyrically, Noregs Vaapen is a paean to cult Norwegian nationalism, hailing the virtues of Pagan progenitors while worshiping the northern sky, excoriating religion and doffing its cap to Satan. If you're comfortable with black metal's legacy, this should offer very little in the way of shock value. Noregs Vaapen, however, features more than a few moments of rock-infused euphoria, transmitting party vibes to rival even countrymen Kvelertak. If you're into reading (and translating) lyrics, Hoest's vicious lyrical screeds during these festive passages can induce actual discomfort. These same musical moments, however, make Noregs Vaapen a transcendent experience.
Taake infuse black metal's fiber with threads of traditional metal and punk. While this is certainly not a novel approach, Taake have executed the maneuver with precision and skill. The metal at hand is immediately appealing, eschewing any sense of monotony for diverse time signatures and consistently coherent riffing. Layered swarms of tremolo picked pestilence produce a full and enticing sound. Memorable lead guitar flourishes add appealing accents that lodge in your skull. Resonant melodic passages break out repeatedly, ensuring that your attention doesn't wander.
When Noregs Vaapen rocks out, the results are utterly convincing. Grotesque grooves transmit an intense need to move. Bastardized, bluesy solos have me reaching repeatedly for the air guitar. The tremendous, authentic and absurd banjo solo in “Myr” can't go without mention; it's a piercing moment of jubilant nihilism.
Taake don't blaze a new trail; they simply obliterate the competition. Noregs Vaapen offers a satiating balance of scathing impiety, harmonic luminosity and animalistic ardor. The album's consistent quality places it amongst the year's elite black metal efforts. If you can abide Hoest's sordid lyrical choler, you're going to want to own this album.
Originally published here: http://www.metalinjection.net/latest-news/cd-review-taake-noregs-vaapen
I've loved Taake since I first heard the Ummeneske single a couple years back, and everything I check out by this guy is solid fucking gold. Noregs Vaapen is no different.
From the epic intro riff to "Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed" to the epic outro riff of "Dei Vil Alltid Klaga Og Kyta" there is no let down here. Every song has it's own genius and all are worth listening to.
Hoest's trademarked vocal sound is at it's best here; the high piercing vocals screaming like a banshee out of hell with a serious vendetta against someone. Never do you feel that he's straining to maintain the wonderfully evil sounding screech he has perfected and never fails to impress. Hoest's vocals aren't the only ones worth mentioning though, as this album has an all-star lineup of guest vocals. Fenriz from Darkthrone on "Fra Vadested", Attila Csihar from Mayhem on "Nordbundet", Demonaz from Immortal on "Du Ville Ville Vestland", can it really get any better than that? Fenriz' contribution is the most notable for sure and really works perfectly with the pace of "Fra Vadested", creating a kind of punk feeling that is reminiscent of current Darkthrone material.
The guitars on this album sound better than they ever have on a Taake album, and the level of production is almost "sacrilegious" in the world of Black Metal, but really allows the listener to hear all the layers of guitar and bass work that are going on here. The same can really be said for the drums, everything sounds great and the production quality is unmatched so far in Taake's catalog.
A few specific moments I want to point out. As I've mentioned, the beginning riff of the first song is epic and wonderfully grips the listener and drags them kicking and screaming straight into the onslaught that is this album. The tone of "Orkan" is much different, providing a brooding feeling that contrasts beautifully with the first songs upbeat nature. The crazy soaring solo that ends "Du Ville Ville Vestland" is beautiful as well and lends something that is very lacking in black metal (awesome solos). The next thing I'm going to mention is probably the most noted on this album and something that is reallllly fucking cool. The banjo solo at 3:20 of "Myr" is possibly the best thing I've ever heard done with black metal and made me burst out laughing and mess my pants at the same time. It's so fun and random, yet works flawlessly with the black metal atmosphere. It's something that makes you go "Fuck Yeah!" and just kicks the track from the realm of "Great" to "Orgasmic" in an instant. Seriously, go listen to it, now. The soaring shrieking guitar work of "Helvetesmakt" is great too and worth noting. Well...what isn't worth noting in this album?
TL;DR - this album is perfect...simply perfect...and even Taake is gonna have a hard time topping it (then again I thought that about Taake's 2008 self-titled). If you haven't heard Taake yet and you love black metal you need to stop whatever you are doing right now and go listen to this album.
Only a handful of black metal groups worldwide are able to generate some real enthusiasm for each new album. Taake rightfully belongs to that elite faction. This Norwegian band, formed during the early 1990s and leaded since by Ørjan Stedjeberg (better known by his stage name “Hoest”) has only five albums, but each has marked the history of dark metal. The “trilogy” (Ser Porten Vid Nattestid, Over Bjoergvin Graat Himmerik Doedskvad and Hordaland, albums released between 1999 and 2005) is still considered to be among the best Norwegian black metal records of all time. After a rather average self-titled album released in 2008 and some disappointments (including the infamous Essen concert episode), Taake is back with a new offering called Noregs Vaapen. So, what Bergen’s enfant terrible will unleash this time?
As soon as the first notes of Fra vadested til vaandesmed rang, it readily acknowledges most aesthetic characteristics of Taake’s music, which draws its inspiration deeply into greatest Norwegian black metal somber years. Both furious and desperate, first song sets the tone. Hoest’s voice, one of the best of its kind, along with excellent riffs, is supported by precise drumming. Keyboard which concludes the song adds an unexpected dimension for this band, used to more conventional forms. This is evidenced by Orkan, a more traditional song, which would have sounded good on any of the band’s first albums, with its repetitive rhythmic riffs and “vintage” atmosphere. But the album really takes off with Nordbundet, a dynamic rock song, sounding alike to fellow Carpathian Forest. Du Ville Ville Vestland remains pure Taake, but Myr, however, might make the strongest impression because of the highly successful use of a freakin’ banjo as a solo instrument! I honestly could not believe my ears. What audacity! I doubt that this initiative spreads, but it is worth noticing it. Group does it again on Helvetesmakt, but this time with a mandolin, which adds a tragic dimension to this excellent and very intense piece. Conclusive Dei vil alltid Klage og kyta is a true synthesis of the album, which ends in a noisy fog evoking northern fjords. Also take note of many renowned artists collaboration, such as Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone), Attila Csihar (Mayhem) and Demonaz (Immortal).
This album meets expectations, however huge, that critics and fans may have for Taake and its leader. Constituting a vital bridge between Norwegian black metal glorious past and its future, Noregs Vaapen will become one of those classic that no one will ever get tired of listening. 9/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.
Taake seem like they’ve been around forever, when they are in fact relative latecomers to the Norwegian black metal scene. “Noregs Vaapen” is their fifth full length in thirteen years and while not the most prolific of black metal bands in terms of releases, it appears Hoest is a firm purveyor of ‘quality before quantity’, and it certainly shows. They’ve never released a bad album, and certainly some of them such as “Nattestid” deserve to be mentioned in the same upper echelons of Norwegian black metal as say “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanis” or “Pentagram”. They’re one of the few black metal bands from Norway these days still worth giving a damn about, and “Noregs Vaapen” continues this trend, forty five minutes of first class black metal as infectious as it is ruthless and devastating.
Taake have always been heavily riff focused in their approach to black metal and this is no different; straight from the off Hoest spews out some fantastic catchy and almost up-beat cold scything riffs and together with his unmistakably crude vocals culminating in what can only be described as raw and raucous yet extremely ‘rocking’ black metal. Just listen to ‘Nordbundet’ and you’ll see what I mean or even ‘Du Ville Ville Vestland’ with its thick bass, soloing and groovy riffing which close it out in such a fashion where you can really see the Heavy Metal influence seeping through. Talking about the bass, it’s refreshing to have a firm and tangible bass presence on the album, something that’s missing from so many Black Metal releases; it’s strikingly effective in this style of black metal and really sets it off.
It’s all extremely high octane and fast paced stuff, from the opener right through to the end, the sheer energy pours out of “Noregs Vaapen”, this is chiefly due to the ever changing dynamic riffing of Hoest’s and overall general diversity that’s threaded throughout the whole album; no two songs sound too alike which is a big plus in this genre. One aspect of this release which i can’t go without mentioning is the track ‘Myr’. We all know Hoest is a rather controversial and enigmatic character, and in rather unexpected fashion and completely from out of left field we have motherfucking banjo. Ok I’m sure to some of you will run around screaming ‘scandalous!’ for such an instrument to be present in an otherwise fairly traditional rooted act, but let me tell you this actually works surprisingly fucking well as a unique touch and doesn’t at all come across as a cheap gimmick. Is there a future in bluegrass black metal? I guess we’ll have to see, but if it at all sounds like this I’m game.
The attitude just oozes out of “Noregs Vaapen” from every pore, there’s not really a weak track here. Admittedly it’s rather slow to start but by the end it’s absolutely blazing. It’s crowded with riffs and if you like your black metal more ‘Metal’ than ‘Black’ there’s a lot on offer here. The best Taake release since “Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik” and a more than worthy addition to their continuously impressive back catalogue, so if there was ever a reason to buy it then there you go. Plus it has motherfucking banjo. Ergo that automatically makes it amazing.
Although it may very well be the brand of metal I find myself drawn towards, I am the first to admit that there's alot of black metal that evidently aims to mock itself. From the unspoken contest of which band can be the most 'evil', to the hordes of raspy soundalikes, it becomes that much more difficult to find the gems. Taake is a project I have heard some great things about over the past couple of years, but it took me until this album to finally check out what was causing the excitement. Although the generic album artwork may have led me to think that Taake were going to be another overhyped Norwegian act, 'Noregs Vaapen' is one of the few times I have found myself truly surprised by a black metal album. Mellotrons, melodies, and banjo solos are just a handful of things that make Taake's fifth album stand out.
Taake are forward-thinking without necessarily treading into prog or avant-garde territory. Without alienating the listeners who are looking for the traditionally raw sound of black metal, project leader Hoest brings in fresh elements to back up strong, often diverse songwriting. Norwegian black metal tends to have a distinct sound to it, and listeners need not fear for lack of blastbeats, tremolo picking, or the signature raspy howl. In speaking of Norwegian black metal, some of the scene's most noteworthy figures offer a guest performance here; Nocturno Culto (of Darkthrone), Demonaz (of Immortal), as well as the legendary Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar, who joined Mayhem after Ohlin's suicide. These cameos feel more like selling points over anything, as none of the guests are ever given a significant role to play in the music. This is one of only a few flaws 'Noregs Vaapen' contends with, however; each time I listened to the album, I became more impressed with the way Hoest had managed to bring all these musical elements and patched them together seamlessly. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is a bluegrass solo that's thrown right into the middle of 'Myr.' Even after several listens, it always comes as a pleasant shock.
For those large portions which devote themselves to more traditional black metal worship, I was impressed by the convergence of melody, atmosphere and harshness, whereas most bands are able to achieve two of the three at best. 'Fra vadested til vaandesmed' represents this paradigm quite well; there is little about it that wanders outside of the black metal canon save for a mellotron outro, but the songwriting makes it memorable and profound. The production has a raw vibe to it, but there is a clarity to the recording that works perfectly. To say that 'Noregs Vaapen' is a masterpiece would be as apt a summary as I could make. Norwegian black metal has emulated itself inside and out, and Taake creates something fresh and breathtaking with it. Hoest may be colouring within the lines on 'Noregs Vaapen', but he is using new colours.
First off, let’s not concern ourselves too much with the guest appearances. Is it really that important in terms of the actual music? Nope. Suffice to say some of the early forebears of Black Metal have seen fit to pay homage to Taake (AKA Hoest) by contributing to the Norwegian’s fifth full-length, ‘Noregs Vaapen’, and the fact that these seminal individuals are prepared to make such a gesture speaks volumes for the niche that second-wave sensation Taake has carved for itself during a rather extraordinary 16-year career to date.
Taake religiously releases an album every three years and each full-length from its glowing canon is absolutely mandatory, the latest being no exception. Opener ‘Fra vadested til vaandesmed’ sets the tone – an excellent chunk of raw yet melodic BM majesty and ‘Orkan’ is even more melodic, cleaner, more accessible, but still contains a harsh and heavy edge, ripping and roaring, flipping and soaring. A great start to the album and there’s no let-up on the oftentimes mid-tempo ‘Nordbundet’, which transforms into a bouncing headbanger before disappearing from earshot, leaving a lasting impression.
There’s nothing grand, spectacular or flash about Taake (apart from perhaps the crazy and commendable banjo solo in ‘Myr’); he just does the simplest things very, very well and delivers solid, by-the-numbers Black Metal that’s impossible to ignore and even harder to dislike. The artwork, imagery and presentation are all as impressive as the music (which is flawlessly produced), culminating in an overall package that will take a lot of topping. Ten-minute closer ‘Dei vil alltid klaga og kyta’ is especially captivating in an almost-The-Ruins-Of-Beverast-style-doomy-BM way.
Residing somewhere between the underground and the Black Metal mainstream (now there’s a concept!), Taake is a law unto itself and one of the most intriguing Norwegian exports of the past two decades. I heartily recommend ‘Noregs Vaapen’ – and every other album released by Hoest and his ever-changing horde of accomplices.
(Review originally appears on http://www.blackmetalreviews.com)
The tangible quality of Taake is, unlike many of its predecessors from Norway, the overall sound and ideal has never found compromise or subservience to the ‘black metal machine’, even though it has changed slightly with each volume. Noregs Vaapen is an album that comes galloping out of the silent brush with riders waving swords held high, laying putrid waste to anything even remotely animate in its way. Taake may have stability issues with lineups, but the more unstable element to the music is the mindset Hoest and company bring into the studio with them. Each and every time Taake produces quality black metal. Well-produced and able to (un)comfortably retain the ‘traditional’ dark sound, Noregs Vaapen is the quintessential volatile album; the despair and violence captures on digital medium an irreparably abused temperament that simply has to be heard to be understood. The fact that Hoest handled this entire album himself proves the point that if you want something done correctly, you should rely on no one but thy self. This is probably the best example of black metal weeding out the hipsters; it is most certainly not for just anyone, and unless you actually understand the concept of the medium you’ll more than likely claim total reverence for this album but miss the point completely.
In my ever humble opinion this is one of the best black metal albums of the year due in no small part to the dense audio fog emanating from the music that carries with it some severely antagonistic tones. The lead in from “Fra vadested til vaandesmed” to “Orkan” is so easy, yet manages to separate the two thoughts nicely and with one simple slash of the blade. The thickness of the drumming and the bass underneath are also happy surprises throughout. “Nordbundet” captures this quality perfectly by affording us a ground view of the sinister vibe that rings in the head a few minutes after it meshes into “Du ville ville Vestland”. This album takes a few unexpected turns and actually feels as if you’re riding an unbroken horse through a black forest and leveling anything within arm’s length. To say it’s a rush to hear is really simplifying the experience, but for lack of a better, more illuminating term it will have to suffice. Hoest has always provided a myriad of devices that hone that evil tone, but when the banjo sound kicks in at the ¾ mark in “Myr” you can’t help but smile and think of how well it fits! Without the incessant tempestuousness of speed and this outdated ‘necro’ sound, Taake proves once more that the beauty of true black art lies within the recesses of a mentally riddled reserve. The transitions from speedy horror to slower, funeral-parlor gloom are natural bedfellows with this movement, but all too often they are left tattered and abused in the mixing process. Such is not the case with Noregs Vaapen; its strengths lie solely in the basic causality of the concept, left naked (if buffed) for the true fan to understand. By the end track “Dei vil alltid klaga og kyta” you can hear the Hellhammer influence from years past joining with the vibrancy of some suicidal black/gothic sounds that cover the entire range with strategic ease without giving in to temptation by plasticity. It’s just a terrific album from start to finish.
I’d have to say that my favorite track on this record is “Du ville ville Vestland” with its very mid-tempo feel that borders on ‘black power’ metal (more inane terms…), but don’t let this little tag from yours truly frighten you off. This is a very well-crafted album from the mind of one of Norway’s last remaining musicians that carries the black metal flag as a tattered and bloody symbol of what once was.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)
The whole Norwegian black metal scene has really gone into a state of decline since the 90's second wave, take that any way you like. It really seems that most of the bands that came out back then are still the ones creating, and releasing, the best stuff coming out of Norway. Taake, obviously one of those bands, is no exception to that opinion.
Taake has always been a band of change, if only slightly varying their sound throughout each of their records, and this one is no exception. The melding of black metal with more straightforward heavy metal riffs is nothing new, but the ability to make it work in a way that isn't cheesy or totally incompetent shows a real talent. Much like what Glorior Belli had done with their most recent record, the riffs, while simplistic, also are much more memorable and the songs have many more hooks in them than ever before. Perhaps the whole idea of black'n'roll actually making its way into becoming a legitimate genre, or sub-sub genre, whathaveyou, will turn off those that want their black metal to be free from all outside influences and remain as hate fueled and raw as possible, but you can't deny the presence of legends from the scene's yesteryears certainly at least give the nod of approval for the likes of Taake. You don't have to do math on your guitar to be a good player, sometimes all it takes is a good riff.
But besides that, what else can you say about this, it's Taake being Taake. The production is a bit crisper sounding than a few of their other records. It's not super polished or clean, but it is a lot less muggy and hazy sounding than even the self-titled record. Everything just comes out so much more fuller sounding than ever before, and things cut through when they need to, like the banjo solo on Myr, which is awesome by the way. Once again, the little kvlt kids who love their early Darkthrone and Mayhem records, which by the way Nocturno Culto and Attila Csihar both guest on here, who hide in their parent's basements pretending to look dark and pondering how they can become the next Varg, will probably hate this for being too clean, but if you're a true fan of good songwriting and riff-driven music, this is right up your alley.
I don't know how to say how good this is other than you just have to check it out. It's got all the right elements to take Taake to the next level while still keeping their sound pretty trve to their roots. Definitely check this out if you want to hear some headbang-able black metal with riffs.
Originally written for http://dontcountonitreviews.blogspot.com/
After the very predictable (for anyone who pays attention anyway) three year silence that followed Taake's self titled third album comes the latest effort by Mr. Hoest and associated. And in this case, perhaps the words "associated" is one of the most relevant. In this instalment of the Taake saga, Hoest counts with a very wide and impressive list of contributors. In the very first track, Fra vadested til vaandesmed, towards the end, we can hear the unmistakable grasps of none less than Nocturno freaking Culto. And that's just the beginning of the album's surprises, but we'll get on that later on.
The first thing to strike the listener is the considerably less stingy sound of the guitar; the tremolos flowing in a more homogeneous torrent of sound, widening its area of influence. This magnifies the trance-inducing effect that, as it is, is already well known in black metal. But at the same time, and as is tradition with this band, no movement or riff or section is repeated for too long, and before you can settle into the stream, the rapids change speed and rocks come out of nowhere, catapulting you from your kayak.
On that note, most of the flaws I personally encountered on their previous album (namely lack of energy and watered down riffs not nearly as gloriously "norwegian" as in previous releases) have been subdued quite a bit, and we do get more bombastic drumming moments and jarringly passionate, folk-influenced riffs. But, perhaps unfortunately or perhaps luckily, this album is still a distinctly step away from the trilogy. That is, by no means, a bad thing. There's only one thing I (and people like me) have been looking for in the metal scene the past ten years and that is innovation. Something that (shockingly, considering the vertiginous history and evolution metal offered almost non-stop from 1970 all the way up until the mid 90's) has been extremely hard to find. So no, I do not pan for the band to go back to their 1999-2005 style. Rest assured, that's exactly what they're not doing here.
Point in case, there is quite a number of fleeting yet compelling instances of experimentation. Now, don't fret. They didn't go down the already cliched "post-metal" sound road, nor did they start experimenting with electronic ambiance or genre crossovers. They are simply executing their core formula in different ways and pointing their talents at slightly different angles. Maybe you'll be listening to a blastbeating monotone (in a good way) section, only to be suddenly interrupted by a dissonant, almost sludgy riff. Maybe you'll be headbanging to the mid-paced sections when seemingly from out of nowhere a chuggy 4/5 riff, or even a Sabbath-influenced heavy riff will throw you off your balance.
All of this without mentioning the use of rather unorthodox instruments like mandolin (perhaps the most brillian addition to the black metal sound since violins and cellos; the friggin mandolin was made to play tremolos, why didn't anyone think of this before? I'm off right now to find a way to plug a mandolin to a very, very distorted amplifier), banjo and bue(???), aswell as the use of samples at the beginning of some songs, something I don't recall having heard from this band before (I might have to check on that) and a very fitting, chest-pounding choir. Strange sounds do lurk behind the bulk of the music from time to time, which seems like a smart move, adding some extra mystery to the already thick sound.
Somewhat like in previous albums, there are rock-tingled elements on most if not all songs, although they're well disguised and only come to the listener's attention in some extreme cases, like when some clean guitar arpeggios get mixed with groovy riffs and solos that remind me of Cathedral or even the less popular sweden death metal albums like Wolverine Blues, Victory or even Heartwork. But that's just to give you a very vague idea. Don't go around thinking they've gone the way of the mid-90's extreme metal scene (or the way of Nokturnal Mortum's spectacular The Voice Of Steel).
To round things up a bit, the album presents most, if not all of the elements that made their early albums the landmarks they were, mixed with the somewhat weaker elements of their self titled. But it's not as simple as that sounds. All of the elements inherited from their previous four full lengths are downplayed and fused in order to create a merged, rich source of elements instead of trying to incorporate all the elements at once, creating interference, or worse, alternating between them, making it sound like a terrible compilation of skills. That, combined with the more adventurous instruments and the extra vocals and lead guitars courtesy of the notable list of guest musicians, make for a very, very unique album. I wouldn't say the album sounds like it borrowed from all its predecessors and it's just a culminating effort, because a) that would take credit away from Hoest (and company)'s ability to innovate and b) it really doesn't sound like that at all, even if those elements are present, they're presented in a very fresh and even innovative format.
Their trilogy remains Taake's (and some of black metal post 1995) most excellent works, but this album truly blows their previous effort out of the water. Enough traditionalism to still be the last great banner for Norwegian Black Metal, enough experimentation to allow themselves to swerve towards whatever direction these visionaries see fit in the future.
With most of the scene's progenitors having mutated their styles to incorporate a wealth of newer influences, 'sold out' or dissembled entirely, it's amusing that it falls upon a band which wasn't even releasing full length records until the dawn of the 21st century to maintain the backbone of Norwegian black metal. Ørjan Stedjeberg (aka Hoest) has always been the very definition of reliable, producing album after album of quality material that has earned him both the respect of the old school and the admiration of a new generation; that pays tribute to its countrymen and influences without ever seeming a shallow rip-off. I mean, if my biggest gripe against an artist is his narcissistic tendency to flaunt himself on album covers, then I think he's in pretty good shape, though even I'll admit that the image adorning the eponymous Taake, his last album, was pretty cool (not to mention the music, which was outstanding).
So then, it is basically no shock to anyone that Taake has once again made good on this genre, and Noregs Vaapen is another refined, balanced assault of those sacraments held dear to the black metal fan. Incredibly well-plotted songs which never cease to provide variation and excitement. Proficient and explosive musicianship. Audible, digestible darkness set in contrast to incendiary desperation and melody. Hoest brings on a whole 'host' of guests to the album, such as Nocturno Culto, Demonaz and Attila Csihar, but he still runs the show across the whole range of instruments, and provides a 47 minute excursion into a night realm of slaughter and beauty, its ego carved upon the natural landscape and the continued decay of mankind. You don't really come to Taake through some quest for novelty or innovation, and surely there are elements here from all of the Norse regulars (Mayhem, Darkthrone, Satyricon, Enslaved, Immortal, Burzum and so forth), but hell, if SOMEONE is to do them justice, it might as well be this guy.
And he does so immediately, through the streaming and bleeding discourse of "Fra vadested til vaandesmed", in which his biting rasp cuts across a series of understated, but forcefully eloquent guitars, expressive drumming and perky, meandering bass lines. The song hits and subsequently bulldozes over a wall at around the 2 minute mark, when it sets up a mid-paced slaughterfest of cruising black/rock chords that will have Hellhammer and Darkthrone fans weeping blood tears of joy...and yet there are more thrills to come, with another brick rock riff and then some sinister, playful strings added to the later re-acceleration. It's this constant variety which allows Noregs Vaapen to burn itself into your mind, and there are no two tracks quite alike. Standouts are omnipresent, but I might call attention the spacious and bold grooves of "Nordbundet" (from the Kveld EP) with its slicing dissonant spikes and hell-blazing rasp; "Myr" with its intense, constantly shifting bridge; or the dire and crushing, doom-like attire of "Helvetesmakt".
But really, there is not a stinker in this bunch. Perhaps a few guitars here or there feel familiar and obviously derivative of hundreds of black metal records in the past. Not all are winners, but more often than not they hold up to repeated scrutiny. I'm just highly impressed how well he writes his songs to essentially remove any chance of losing the listener's attention span. The production values are superb without ever threatening to feel digitized or suffering from an excess shine-job: you can hear everything loudly and clearly, no less emotionally draining than it would be if it sounded like it were recorded in a closet. The Norse lyrics are delivered with an appreciable level of dread, but more importantly he doesn't waste his presence away through dull, repetitive patterns, sticking instead to restrained quantities of syllabic deviation. In the end, even if it doesn't scale those same leering heights that Over Bjoergvin... or Hordalands Doedskav did when I first heard them, Noergs Vaapen is another excellent Taake effort and even slightly superior to its s/t predecessor. Hard work pays off, in metal and in the rest of life.