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School Ist… - 91%

OzzyApu, December 5th, 2009

Taake managed to elude me for so long that it’s not even a joke: many others have fallen by the blade of maturity, but these guys ended up shitting one out just before the end of the millennium. Check that out; December, 1999 – the only way they could have been anymore lazy was releasing it on December 31st, but I’m pretty sure it was cold enough in Norway and things were bogging down quite a bit. Høst may have been the last one to turn his homework in, but he likely didn’t get any sleep over it. I can tell because I’m giving him an A+ with an extra dose of ass-kickery that obliterates a good percentage of his peers.

My only complaint is with the production job – there’s this constant fuzzy distortion whenever the guitars are even touched. It makes everything buried behind this thin layer, but then again it always takes a little bit of time for me to really look past it and get into the music. Obviously there are plenty of albums that have way worse of a job like Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal and Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger, but those are still bearable and house some pretty killer music. Looking back at this in comparison to those, it’s a small issue that you’ll certainly get over, as I did well into the first song.

The very first riff heard is just so soul-piercingly cold and nasty that I shiver and coward in my chair. It’s like a blizzard brewing and these razor-sharp, tremolo-dicing melodies cutting me up; relentless but not uncomfortable or merciless. Aside from sounding vicious as hell, they’re very harmonious and catchy; there’s a throwback to Bathory in much of the tunes, which is lively in typical conditions – the difference here is that it’s devastating. The average tempo is blazing like an icy charge, so tremolo playing makes up the backbone of the music while the production just layers everything with a magical sheet of aura (even with the fuzz). I’d say it’s second to Infernus from Gorgoroth’s debut – very memorable, but not exactly as malevolent; no doubt, there’s still this haunting atmosphere eclipsing everything on the giving end.

Høst himself is a shrieky bastard on vocals: barbaric, bloodthirsty, ruthless, and just a tortured ghoul howling in the wind. It’s as if he’s wandering the mountainous countryside, weathering the storm without any aid. His screams sound so sorrowful in the distance and absolutely twisted when in a psychotic rage like on “Vid V.” He uses other pained forms to express his anguish such as groaning and almost screeching with a ton of stomach power (though it’s rare) – much like Kvarforth of Shining, but here it’s depressing and with Shining it’s almost laughable because Kvarforth does it constantly and it sounds so fake.

The atmosphere brought about primarily by the guitars and vocals are enough to withstand time, and the role of the bass somehow fits into all of this. Considering that black metal doesn’t necessarily get first dibs on production, it’s quite odd hearing the bass sound so vivid and possessed right alongside the nappy guitars – the quality is very deep and gurgled, contrasting quite a bit but allowing another layer to seep through. Most of the time it just follows with the rhythm, but the interest in forlorn melodies and Gorgoroth-wicked bass lines peak my interest so much that I it keeps me engrossed and attentive the entire time.

The last track pretty much takes everything graded thus far and blows me out of the water. The riff that kicks the whole thing off… I mean, I was giving him an A- for the content before, but this one track alone bumps it up to an A+. The drumming throughout the album is very chilly, backed by a drummer who stampedes without any forgiveness with the double bass. It’s constant blasting from the double bass while the rest of the kit is hit in climactic patterns flailing sensationally. The combinations are so beautiful, and with the lead tune it’s very captivating and grave. The At The Heart Of Winter-like break in the middle is the icing on the cake, right there – flawless and enchanting.

There are nods to Bathory and Scandinavian history blemished throughout the album and the soul provided for every second of it is something worth cherishing. I thought I liked this album, but now I just can’t get enough of it. Høst may very well be one of the best minds to spring from Norway, and even though he could be considered the slacker, he’s just become the scholar for the Norwegian Black Metal Class of 1999.