Taake are back and pimping their Norwegian black metal wares as only the gloriously bare chested Hoest can do! Yes you read right, it seems the obligatory three year wait since the release of Noregs Vaapen is over and it’s time for the sixth and newest “exciting” chapter in the band’s extensive catalogue. So what of it? Is Stridens Hus packed with more of the thrilling Kentucky bluegrass that enamoured us in Noregs Vaapen? Have Taake packed Stridens Hus with a tasty hint of danger, some tightly wound excitement and burning passion, or has Hoest put away his banjo, turning in a safe, risk-free and dependable release that’ll ultimately start Taake on the downward slope? So many questions…
Right from the get go you pick up a sense of where Taake are headed and surprisingly, it’s not up. “Gamle Norig” hints at the early days of Nattestid, with some plays on the traditional Norwegian blackened sound they had in Noregs Vaapen combined with a touch of Belus era Burzum and the kind of black ‘n roll I normally seek out in a strange old brew like Carpathian Forest. Hoest delivers a breathless, rasping croak that’s still up there with what you expect if you’re a Taake fan, counterbalancing it with some tasty and plenty-mean caterwauls and shouty bits. Progressing into the very depths of “Orm” and moving onwards through “Det fins en Prins” and “Stank,” I get the impression that Hoest’s focus on Stridens Hus was to treat the vocals in an instrumental fashion and while it’s diverse and vaguely interesting at times, these lamentations always pull back seconds before they should, leaving me feeling a little shafted.
Hoest plays all the instrumentation on the album, barring some contributions from his live band, the details of which are not clear from the the promo info. I expected a fresher feel to creep in based on this “new blood,” but in truth finding fresh and interesting hooks on Stridens Hus is not easy. If you pull out your trusty monitors, sit down and really focus to a granular level, “Orm,” “Stank,” “En Sang til Sand om Ildebrann” and “Kongsgaard Bestaar” feature short, tragic and melancholic guitar solos that teeter on the edge of either Agalloch or old Katatonia, but in truth, they remain too sedate and restrained to actually reach the greatness of either of those genre titans. Apart from these enticements and the Carpathian Forest-like black ‘n roll dotted throughout the album, the happy little gallop in “Gamle Norig” and a few moments in “Det fins en Prins” hint at the glory I found in “Du Ville Ville Vestland” and “Myr,” but unlike their predecessors, in mere moments they’re gone, lost and mostly forgotten.
The individual tracks on Stridens Hus barely exceed the eight minute mark, and yet with the lack of “white space” separating each stream of thought, the tracks blur into one another and the album feels far far longer and more tedious than it actually is. There’s a lot of play on repetition, which should embed melodies in your subconscious and have you humming them in the shower, but instead this just adds fuel to the boredom fire. It’s all stuff you’ve heard before from Taake and a host of similar black metal bandits.
While I don’t expect another Noregs Vaapen each time Taake releases an album, I had high hopes Stridens Hus would be the work of a band that thinks outside of the box. Instead, though there are definite moments of ear catching beauty nestled deep down in Stridens Hus, which Conclave & Earshot’s studio production compliments, it still feels like this brainchild has been hastily stitched together for release in the nick of time for the holiday season. It is interminably long, lacks space and just ends up a chore to wade through. This reviewer avoids chores at all costs!