This is gonna sound weird but black metal makes my mouth water. That’s no exaggeration. And the rawer the quality and the greater the album, the more my mouth waters. When I first got into the scene—some fifteen years ago—I started from the beginning. First, it was the well-known Norwegian outfits, like Burzum, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Immortal, Mayhem, Thorns, and Ulver. Then, the Swedish stuff (like Dissection) and the third-wave shit (like Marduk, Watain, and Gorgoroth). But the ones I came back to the most were the underrated groups, like Ofermod, Svartsyn, Urgehal, and Taake. To me, this latter group has some of the best black metal ever recorded. In Taake‘s case, Nattestid ser porten vid, Over Bjoergvin graater himmerik, and Hordalands doedskvad still make me dribble over my lower lip like a fucking vegetable. But, like most black metal giants, Taake‘s recent material has begun to slip in quality. Their 2014 release, Stridens hus, left my throat parched and now my need for nourishment is at an all-time high. The question is: will Taake‘s newest release, Kong Vinter, wet lips or will it cause them to crack and bleed?
Well, to be quite honest, opener “Sverdets Vei” did nothing to dispel my continued concern for the band. It has the same “safe” qualities as Stridens hus and its proggy Enslaved character doesn’t break it from any shell. But, Kong Vinter isn’t one song. Hell, it isn’t two songs. It’s seven; seven songs that build off one another and ferment into one hell of a black metal brew. For now, you can’t see that coming, as the Darkthrone-esque follow-up track “Inntrenger” only slightly emerges from its warm cocoon. But, this is only an introduction to what’s coming. And, it’s the catchy guitar lead that hints at where the album is going. After dancing around with this slick riff, the song settles in for the long haul—taking Taake melodies and infusing them into Satyricon-like mid-paced blackness until its conclusion.
From here, everything changes. For the next five songs, riffs are the name of the game. After the back-to-back “Huset i Havet” and “Havet i Huset,” you’d think you came across an unknown Immortal record. There are so many mood swings, so many riff changes, so much fucking attitude. The first of the two tracks is heavier—using black metal grooves and headbangeable Carpathian Forest assaults. The second is the more melodic and better of the two—sucking you deep into its dark, melodic spell. “Havet i Huset” sifts through everything from lightning-quick black picking and in-your-face bass work to a building transition that climaxes into one of the best riffs of the album.
And Kong Vinter continues to grow and Hoest’s vocals become more vicious with every track. But, the Gorgoroth-infused “Jernhaand” will be the last time you hear a full song of Hoest’s nasty rasps. After all the fretboard ascensions and descensions, and the neck-breaking riff at the 3:40 mark, you can pretty much kiss Hoest’s voice goodbye. Instead, Hoest gives in to his other passions: the guitar and bass. The two closing tracks are a back-to-back stew of every melodic, hard-hitting, or genre-snapping guitar lick Hoest can muster up. After opening with a couple minutes of vocal work, “Maanebrent” unleashes lush guitar atmospheres and the journey through dark valleys and over snow-capped mountains begins. The atmospherics turn to start-stop guitar licks and clever bass work, before bludgeoning you with massive drum assaults that morph into slow, melodic interludes. Even after ascending and rupturing into an explosive melodic climax, “Maanebrent” still isn’t finished. The rest of the instruments spread it out and expand upon it, driving this eight-minute piece home.
But the ten-minute closer, “Fra Bjoergegrend mot Glemselen,” is the masterpiece of the album. Not only that, it’s one of the best pieces Taake has ever written. It has all the progressiveness of modern-day Enslaved but with a character that is and can only be Taake. It opens with some nifty guitar work and a shroud of tension before all falls into classic Taake melody. From here, it collapses further and resurfaces more. And with each rise and fall, it comes back with new life and new riffs. At five minutes, the bass takes hold and begins an almost rocking build that explodes into Gorgorothian gallops. After this subsides, the guitars unleash one of the most beautiful passages the band has ever put on tape. And, now that it’s over, my shirt is soaked in drool.
So, how does this new opus compare to the band’s classic first three? Well, it doesn’t. It’s something else entirely. It’s black metal to the core but with a progginess and classic metal feel that makes it unique. Kong Vinter‘s only real issue (which is a significant one) is that its back-half is better than its front. That said, Kong Vinter proves Taake will not settle into a groove and join many others in black metal purgatory. Taake will, instead, continue to be the underrated classic they are.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websites: taake.bandcamp.com | taake.svartekunst.no | facebook.com/taakeofficial
Releases Worldwide: November 24th, 2017