Album Review: Taake – “Stridens Hus”

Stridens Hus
(Candlelight Records)

Taake is an iconic “True Norwegian Black Metal” band that stands with Darkthrone and Gorgoroth and Immortal in the annals of the genre. Taake, like their brethren, invite disdain and provoke controversy from the outside world and within the underground community. Taake’s legacy spans twenty years and a plethora of releases. Techinically, even before then, the band was known as Thule but the man behind the curtain, Hoest, changed the name in 1995.

From critics and fans, Hoest and crew are highly regarded and cultivate respect for epitomizing Black Metal. I was surprised to hear average reviews of this album, while I found it invigorating. Certainly the variety, the same found in Darkthrone’s trajectory will be embraced. But, no. Honestly, this LP is rather in line with the highly lauded prior album, Noregs Vaapen. I fail to see where there smug purists are finding ammunition. After twenty years, Taake is incorporating varied nuances from song to song.

After twenty years, Taake is incorporating varied nuances from song to song. Taake’s music evokes the feeling of the fog (the translation of Taake)and the seven mountains (tattooed on Hoest in Taake’s logo) of Norway as they did for every other album. Taake’s music is a celebration of the ambiguous implications of nature; while awe inspiring and wonderful, isolation and worthlessness can be felt as well. Bleak tones of the guitar and droning drums create an atmosphere of pain and a vacuum of loss.

“Gamle Norig” is a solid opener, flexing speed and sinister vocals and deep churning drums and guitars. Those swells embedded in the second half of the song break up the standard yet splendid opening of usual high tone bombardment. “Kongsgaard bestaar” is a screamer of BM aesthetics as much as any Taake song in the past. The slower section (not slow, just slower than the machine gun beginning) in the middle truly drains the listener. The depressing tones capture Taake’s strength.

“En Sang…” is an instrumental in the middle of the album. The song adds dynamic guitars, with harmonies and riffs mixed well, while riding cymbals and pushing drums which set a foundation. The beginning of the final third of “Orm” sounds like a layer of slide guitar alongside a layer of a metal solo. The rest of the song has a swinging metal riff with monk-like chanting. When “Stank” kicks in at the 2:30 mark, this is the charging riffs of Venom and Bathory. About a minute later, a few strums of the guitar are using a surf tremolo. I think it works and adds variety without chipping at the haunting feeling.

Taake’s’s objective, which often invites the controversy and legal troubles for members of the band, is to confront and antagonize. In the dark Black Metal which they play, that confrontation is for the listener to face emotions not usually triggered by music or film or TV, which we seek in our off time. (Their stage presence and interview responses still do this as well). Stridens Hus certainly attains that level of interaction. The album still relies on the parameters of TNBM for ninety percent of its execution. I applaud Taake for adding in variety and other influences as Leviathan, Wolvhammer and Krieg do so well. (Hutch)

Purchase Stridens Hus here.

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