Taake — Stridens Hus

Taakes some real liberties with black metal

“What? No, I don’t want to re-edit the picture. No, I don’t care if my cat sat on the mouse when I was hovering over the ‘exposure’ control. It’s black metal. Who cares?”

Norweigan black metal project Taake has always been more about breaking rules than following them. The band’s idiosyncratic music is penned by the multi-talented Hoest, who takes obvious pleasure in carefully challenging listeners’ expectations. Sometimes this simply means using under-appreciated modal scales, while other times it means a banjo solo. Regardless of the particular form it takes, these sorts of creative surprises are what make the band’s music so enduringly popular and well-known.

Long-time Taake fans will largely appreciate the fact that Stridens Hus, the band’s sixth full-length, follows in this tradition. There are plenty of beautiful, triumphant, and cold conventional black metal riffs and harmonies on this record, which Hoest cleverly allows to stand out by juxtaposing them against less grim-sounding and even major key-oriented guitar work.

But in many places, it also feels both oddly underdeveloped and overwrought. There are also a number of tracks on which he goes a bit overboard, adding a wah pedal, a bluesy shred guitar solo, and some passages that remind me a fair bit of Hüsker Dü and other post-pop, proto-punk bands. There’s nothing wrong with these sorts of creative flourishes in theory, especially given Taake’s past material, but Hoest seems at times not to particularly care whether these additions are emotionally and musically coherent in the context of the song. Many of these pieces feel wedged-in, and one track in particular, En Sang Til Sand Om Ildebrann, sounds as if he quite literally threw together a bunch of unused riffs and called it a day. In a genre in which well-established musical aesthetics are so important to the listening experience, this seems especially offensive.

On the other hand, there are several songs on this LP that work exceptionally well. The opener, Gamle Norig, and the last two tracks are exceptional examples of Hoest’s ability to combine first-, second-, and third-wave black metal influences with his own signature flair. These songs don’t necessarily represent a sea change in the band’s style, but if you like Taake, you’ll enjoy them nonetheless.

It’s hard to qualify Stridens Hus as a total disappointment or a missed opportunity, but I also wouldn’t regard it as up to Taake’s usual standards. The most overwhelming sensation you’re likely to have when listening to it is one of unevenness: one track can be fantastic, yet the next can painfully shatter the fourth musical wall that makes Taake’s brand of post-modern black metal so engaging. With that in mind, this release gets a solid 6/10.

Stridens Hus is out now. Buy it here.

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