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It's gotta be a hell of a thing following up one of the greatest black metal albums of all time. Well, let me qualify that opening sentence by making it clear that I was definitely not a part of the underground metal scene when this album was first released, and certainly was not around for the first, either, so I have no knowledge of how well these albums were received in metaldom at large outside of digging up some old reviews. But here we are in 2016, afforded the luxury of being able to look back across years of releases and compare them with a different set of metrics and biases. From the lofty perspective many-albums-later, I can't help but find this album a slight disappointment after the flawless masterpiece of the debut. Even so, it's still a magnificent album and rightfully stands along with the first and third Taake full-lengths as part of one of the absolute best album runs in the genre's history.
Just to keep things interesting, let's first talk about everything that doesn't work about this album. For one, there's the very noticeable absence of Frostein/Tundra, whose master-stroke rhythm section work on the debut helped propel those compositions into the stratosphere. That's not to say the the bass or drums here are dull or heavily de-emphasized or something like that; the production still gives plenty of room for both to have a lively, organic sound and the playing is surely far above average, but there are exactly zero moments where the bass really stands out and, while the drums are really energetic and expertly played, they take a back seat for the most part, opting for more interesting beats almost exclusively when the guitars are also going into full-on awe mode, so they're given relatively few moments to shine.
More importantly, though, there are just too many riffs and melodies on this album that feel too angular and awkward for a Taake album. Take track five, for example. When things slow down into that nasty BLACK Sabbath sort of part around two minutes in, I find myself perking my ears right the hell up. That part is just really brilliant stuff, the kind of transition to a more rocking, traditional heavy metal sound that Hoest often pulls off with shocking brilliance, but in the very best Taake material sections like this don't suddenly sneak up on you after two minutes of undercooked tremolo like that which opens "Part V." Those opening tremolo bits are something of an archetype for all of the misguided riffs on this album. They do sound like Taake, yes, but like Taake riffs where the destination isn't etched into cold granite, and that's never a good thing for this band. Worse, there are a few parts here and there that just seem to totally lack the momentum Hoest relies on to make his surging, emotion-laden anthems work. Track three mostly operates in a mid-paced mode, which works well enough with the tremolo riffs and lively drumming in the first half, but when things slow down toward the end (after the famous jaw harp boing boing bits) it just feels like it's running out of gas.
Now that the bashing's out of the way, let's talk about why this album is still fucking glorious. First of all, the opening track easily ranks among the absolute best stuff of the early Taake period and thus of the genre itself. It's just intensity and majesty rolling along with Juggernaut momentum. Every riff is perfect and follows perfectly from the one before it, melodies reaching the only climaxes you could imagine them having before smashing right the fuck through the mountain and further into the sky. There's that signature vaguely folky melodicism, some thuggish powerchord slowdowns that overflow with masculinity and swagger, and some soul-baring sad kind of arpeggio bits, narrated by Hoest's always formidable presence behind the microphone and bolstered by the well-incorporated dashes of piano courtesy of bassist Keridwen. The song's far from alone in its greatness, either; most songs on the album reach these same lofty heights at some point or another, often for extended durations (hell, tracks two and six are at least as good, as is most of five), and that does nothing but make me sit there with a big ol' stupid grin on my face. Well, between bouts of air guitaring/drumming, headbanging and fist pumping.
There are also a few undeniable standout moments on Over Bjoergvin... The ending segment of "Part IV" is pure audio perfection. We get this bleary-eyed melody introduced with a distant, fuzzy flanged guitar before an avalanche of a drum fill brings the rest of the band in, and that plasma jet guitar just keeps cutting deeper and deeper through years of repression right into some long-forgotten goldmine of regret and melancholy. In a bit of an unusual move for the band, the signature instrumental track was left for the very end of the album instead of being somewhere in the middle, but I'd probably be lying to you if I said this wasn't one of my all-time favorite Taake tracks. The sighing, wordless chants, the way the rippling delayed clean guitar comes in over that running water sample, that fucking DEVASTATING wailing one-note guitar solo...there are probably shitloads of established, famous musicians in the metal scene who have worked their asses off for years building well-deserved fanbases based on impressive catalogs of music who cry themselves to sleep every goddamned night because they have never in their lives even come close to writing something this simple, this perfect.
So yeah, I've gotta knock a few points because there are some forgettable bits here and there on Over Bjoergvin.... I've gotta knock a few more on top of that because the mere presence of such stuff means that the album as a whole is less consistently amazing than the two that came before and after it. These flaws, however obviously though they may be, come across as earnest near-hits rather than misguided almost-successes or totally wrongheaded failures as were featured so prominently on the band's fourth and sixth albums, so only a few points it is. But when it's on, which it usually is, Taake's second album is as good as the band has ever been, which makes this a top-shelf black metal album in spite of its really relatively minor, isolated issues.
Continuing where "Nattestid..." left off, 2002's "Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik" saw Hoest push his unique brand of folk-influenced True Norwegian Black Metal even further. Gone was the razor-thin Grieghallen production job, and the melodies were brought into focus to a stronger degree. While this more sophisticated take on Black Metal might have alienated some underground-minded fans, it's difficult to deny that "Bjoergvin" was a big leap forwards for TAAKE.
Where contemporaries like CARPATHIAN FOREST were headed for a punk-injection in their already raw musical veins, TAAKE championed epic sweeping melodies. In contrast to the truly big 'uns, they spared us from cheesy synthesizers and bombastic battle-metal, somehow capturing a strong nationalistic spirit in their riffs. These traditional melodies are perfectly contrasted by the extremely harsh and vicious snarls of mainman Hoest, who sounds like he's spitting fire and brimstone with every gruelling syllable. As a side-note, "Part III" contains the single most unintentionally hilarious mouth-harp ever, which luckily still isn't enough to break the spell.
Like its predecessor, "Bjoergvin" is more of a single concept than a collection of songs, but each of its seven parts have a strong individual character. The memorable riffs are too many to count, some of them even are of the unbelievably catchy variety. There is little repetition, and the melodies are allowed to evolve and ascend freely. This results in an tremendous piece of art that has rarely been rivaled within the genre, and that would prove almost impossible to follow up.
There is virtually no excuse to not already have acquainted yourself with this modern classic, but if you're still one of the unbelievers, now is the time to pick up a copy of the re-release. The ideal setting for listening to TAAKE would be while wandering amongst the fjords of Hordaland, but with a powerful set of speakers you can transport the fjords directly into your own living room!
(Online November 29, 2009)
Written for the Metal Observer
First of all, HOLY SHIT PART IV. I find myself singing this track in my head almost daily. This was the first Taake track I ever heard and it blew my fucking mind.
The album, from beginning to end, is nothing short of a masterpiece. A small guitar fade in and you're on your way to a fantastic listening experince. The first track is simultaneously brutal and melodic and just has an amazing feel to it. Then the rest of the album follows suit.
Never does this release feel repetitive, cliche or contrived; rather, it is the opposite of all of those things. When listening to the songs, I thought, "wow, these guys seriously know how to write." Everything is proportioned correctly from the duration of repeated riffs to the complete song structure. They know exactly when to change and when to hold their ground. I haven't been this impressed in a long time... actually since I was first introduced to REAL metal. This band is a complete standout in black metal as well as metal as a whole.
As a huge proponent of blast beats, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised as to how well they make the drumming work here. Blast beats are all about intensity which works SO well in metal but they have really added an element of musicallity with the percussion work. And it is surprisingly diverse for a black metal album. Sure, the drummer blasts from time to time but most of the time is spent bringing out the rest of the music with various patterns and fills.
The vocals are pretty ruthless. Hoest does an awesome job from beginning to end. Not a whole lot of variance here but he keeps the music intense and stimulating throughout so there is nothing negative to be said.
The biggest element here though is the guitars. The riffs are very folkish but in a way that never, ever makes you think that this is anything other than pure and true black metal. You won't find any breakdowns or childish chugging filler. Just fucking ruthless riff to fucking ruthless riff, all with a classical, folkish tinge to them. This is EXACTLY what melodic black metal should be.
The production is quite clear in terms of black metal, however, that doesn't mean that it is overproduced. It sounds like it should. Imagine early Marduk: the guitars are heavily distorted and have a "static" effect to them but you can decipher every note that is played.
For me, the standout tracks are parts I, VI and again, holy shit IV. Seriously, part IV, from beginning to end is one of the greatest black metal songs ever written. Everything about it was just perfect. And the end was so fucking epic that I can't begin to explain it.
In conclusion, GO BUY THIS ALBUM. Just do it. I don't care if you're a fan of nothing metal. I have actually shown some people I know who have nothing to do with the genre this album and it fucking blew them away.
And one more thing: BOING. How the hell they managed to make a mouth harp work in part III I don't know, but it does. And it's fucking cool.
Taake is one of those bands which often stay unmentioned when somebody speaks about greatest black metal bands - for me unfairly. I realised it from the very first listening od that cd. You can call it new wave of black metal, whatever, but Taake will always have its own style. For some this music can be a bit similar to Satyricon's "Nemesis Divina" - I can't negate it for some melodies on this album really remind be Satyr's band. But still this material is something new although of course inspired by something. The album is divided into seven parts all untitled. The rest is also a kind of enigmatic - lyrics written in runes - all in norwegian. My song favourites are: Part I, Part VI and great instrumental Part VII. How does it sound in general? Good guitar playing, brutal drumming, vocals both growl and sometimes clean and some piano parts - sometimes they all together create really great melodies. Songs aren't simple, but you'll love this album after the first listening. I can recommend it to every fan of black metal.
Taake returns in 2002 with another very impressive brutal/raw black metal release. Not much has changed for Taake though. We still have the brilliant guitar playing; grim vocals, brutal drumming, some clean vocals, and the songs are broke up into 7 parts. There are a few minor changes though. The band is now actually a full band with 4 members, there's some brief piano/mouth harp use, and although I never would have expected it the band has improved upon their amazing debut album! Bjoergvin is actually the old word for Bergen (city in Norway), and the lyrics are wrote in the old Norwegian language so most likely not many of us are going to understand these lyrics. Screw the lyrics the music speaks for it self on this release perfectly.
As already mentioned the band is now a full band of 4 dark souls. Høst provides the Vocals and Guitars, C. Corax handles the Guitars, Keridwen does Bass, and Mutt pounds the hell out of the skins. Frostein TUNDRA Arctander seems to have left the band for this release so I'm not sure who is doing the clean vocals here. The band also uses some brief piano/mouth harp use on this album. The piano is limited to just a few seconds on the first track and for a little while on Part VI. The mouth harp only appears for a short while on Part III.
It's hard to believe, but its true the band has toped their excellent debut album. Making the band consist of 4 people seems to have certainly paid off. The guitar playing is amazing, the drums more brutal, and just about everything is an improvement over the debut. Which is a great feet to reach since that was quite the masterpiece. Next Taake needs to get the respect the very much deserve. Whether or not it will happen I guess will just have to wait and see. In the mean time go pick up this colossal piece of Norwegian black metal!
Hail the true pagan warrior!!!...
There are many, many aspects of this band in relation to there sound, style, and instrumentation utilized, but all in all greatness can be found here. From the very first speed picked riffs, which just shows you straight off that you are in for some real, strongly creative, and highly enjoyable, metal. Lots of fairly technical, very original riffs that spew out True Norwegian Black Metal better than most other shit you might pick up, and greater than almost 80% of the bands today. I really cant explain how much I dig this shit, but just know I am not easily amused by wankery. Also as a side note, I thought the cover was pretty cool, and some what original as far as personal pictures go for covers (obviously Darkthrone own here, and obviously countless bands have done this to death).
Mostly maintaining a blackend, more so towards the higher pitched range, for the lead parts, but also has a few clean parts (not many at all, and where they are they are fairly short), and deeper lines for the back up parts. A good mix also helps contribute to the full feel of all vocal lines on here. Also a noteable mention is the vocal patterns which fit the music quite well. I have no clue as to what the lyrics speak of (there all in ruins in the booklet, as are all song titles), but I'll give em the benefit of the doubt its good since every other aspect of this album sounds good to me. A quick sum up,...they rule, and fit the music perfectly.
Well first off, they are the reason you should own this. Well done leads, and rythms are merely the fore front of how much this owns you. Of the variety of styles meshed on here I seem to pick out a definite progressive thrashy black metal vibe (similiar in some ways to Dissection (especially a part in the 6th song), but a fair league away from there sound) that seems constant through the majority of this release. The vocals fit the riffs very well as previously stated. There are some odd parts behind the riffs in a few areas, like the 3rd song which has an odd "boing"(best possible description) noise put to the rythm (which I have heard in some blue grass but very little metal). There are many little parts where the bass may shine (like a part in the 5th song), or clean guitar may be used, and overall help keep you entertained by this monumental opus. I also hear a similiarities in some riffs to Obtained Eslavement (which also attempt in parts to be quite technical in delivery). One may call the guitar work here avantgarde without sounding totally retarded. The clean work can be sumed up as well written pieces that fit perfectly where they are placed, since they are mostly short and used as trasitions in most ways.
Well fucking done period. Many interesting beats, instead of just straight blasting which is also done, but not to death, and well performed, and tight accents. This album has Mutt on battery, and this is yet another aspect that is highly impressing.
Killer. I was quite pleased with this album, and would recommend it. This is one of those albums that truely capture a tight Black Metal sound. Not exactly typical under ground metal, this album displays a need for great melodies, and well arranged guitar parts. In short,... impressive.