TAAKE – exclusive report from KONG VINTER listening session
Eternal Terror was quite recently granted the privilege to listen to the upcoming Taake album entitled “Kong Vinter” in its unmastered and raw glory, and I might as well tell you right here and now that you are all in for a treat. Once this album hits the stores, you will be blown away. Never one to compromise or waver, mastermind Hoest has once again managed to vomit forth a cohesive and coherent record where different and even conflicting emotions continually and consistently wrestle with and within each other. Shifting between tension, intensity, and deep-seated melancholy, the dynamics and diversity of the entire affair are almost frightening to behold. I was full of excitement and anticipation when I popped the album into my stereo. Would it be a continuation of “Stridens Hus” or something else entirely? Would it harken back to some of the earlier records or would it carve a new path of some sort? Let us proceed and see what is in store, shall we?
1. Sverdets Vei
An unnerving bass line opens the proceedings and then takes us into a cold and icy musical territory in which harsh vocals chill us to the bone and yet they manage to leave us with an overriding sense of emptiness and despair. Layered and unpredictable, but with a strong hint of groove to it, the song is a raging monster that perfectly balances the bombastic and the melancholy. Every riff is razor-sharp and every frigging melody reeks of longing. Apart from being incredibly varied and captivating, the strong leads and great interplay between the guitars and bass manage to infuse the song with a bleak atmosphere that remains intact throughout despite its many curveballs and shifts. A strange beauty simmers underneath the riffs and rears its ugly head from time to time, but the vocals are truly penetrating and edgy, almost as if they sing of some deep unexpressed sorrow that refuses to subside. A superb opening tune that immediately sets the mood and hints at what is to come.
Driven and vicious opening riffs transport us into an unsettling blend of the epic and the introverted. A partly mid-paced and rumbling beast of a tune, the brilliant vocals ooze spite and manic depravity. There is a certain energy to the track that is overwhelming. Its shifts and changes ensure that there is neither calm nor relief in sight for the listener. Not knowing what is waiting just around the corner is obviously one of the major draws of the latter-day Taake releases and this song fits nicely into that whole scenario. It encompasses everything that makes Taake great, which is to say that it is rich in atmosphere and sufficiently challenging for the listener to keep returning to repeatedly. The second half of the song is utterly hypnotic and trance-like, not unlike some of the parts and passages that were to be found on the self-titled 2008 effort.
3. Huset i Havet
The third composition is an aggressive and intense one. Despite its foul character, it possesses a sense of something morose and otherworldly, almost as if the meaning of the song is located somewhere far beyond the demonic riffs and tortured melodies. The emotionally charged vibe of the track and its many captivating passages turn it into one of those beautiful musical journeys that simply has to be experienced as it defies description and transcends the written word. As with the previous two cuts, this one is quite layered too. Cleverly written and nicely arranged, this is one of the standout tracks on the album and could potentially go down a storm at shows in the future. The way in which the vocals and drums underline and emphasize the oppressive feel of the composition is stunning to behold. The tune also intensifies along the way and eventually explodes into a shattering climax that will leave you begging for more.
4. Havet i Huset
A majestic and highly memorable piece. The way in which a prevailing sense of sadness and something that I can only describe as total bleakness mingle and wrestle with each other only to tear the listener apart and leave him/her in state of confusion and slime-soaked depression is superb. This one is atmospheric and moody, but also memorable and catchy. As with some of the others, this has the potential to wreak havoc and make people lose their minds at future live performances. It walks that fine line between frantic and controlled. Quite a few of the guitars delve into more old school black metal territory here, but due to the overall context, there is nothing remotely regressive or unoriginal about this one. It does bring to mind some of the first few Taake records, but at the same time, it sounds so large in scope that it comes across as a timeless hymn. This is yet another standout track on the album and perhaps even my favorite cut, which is saying something.
The first few times that I immersed myself in this one, I felt that it was downright rotten and vile from front to back. Obviously, an unpleasant and nasty tune on a black metal album is ideal, but gradually this fucker grew on me and its many nuances and subtle details started creeping in and revealing themselves. As hard-hitting and at-times thrashy as it is, it contains quite a lot of depth, substance, and character. The high point of the anthem is the utterly convincing vocals. Rarely has Hoest sounded so menacing. Halfway through it descends into a pretty sick part that sounds as if it was conjured up in some carnivalesque loony bin. Needless to say, that is a compliment. It then slides into a grandiose section before eventually reverting to its more schizophrenic beginnings.
The sixth track has a ton of light and shade to it. Ranging from lively and dynamic parts to repetitive passages that are akin to nine-inch nails being driven into one’s skull, this wonderful monstrosity is a true gem. It constantly feels as if one is being lulled into a false sense of security, as it is impossible to guess or predict where the song is heading next. An unsettling and unsettled opus for sure. I really dig the slightly groovy sections that come into play from time to time. Contrasts and dichotomies are allowed to breathe and wrap themselves around each other. For some reason this feels like a very reflective and almost meditative piece, which probably sounds weird to some of you, but something about the song makes it sound as if it originated from somewhere far beyond the grasp of us mere mortals. There is a veil of secrecy to this one that is enticing.
7. Fra Bjoergegrend mot Glemselen
Simply put, this is one of the strongest and most well written tracks by Taake to date. Creepy and yet sprawling, it is insanely tense and seemingly on the verge of exploding into chaos and disorder at each and every turn, but it manages to walk that fine line between discipline and total fucking abandon. I cannot even begin to tell you how wicked this song is. I wish that I could tell you what the fuck went through that warped mind of Hoest’s when he wrote this sucker, but unfortunately, I cannot. I am tempted to say that it incorporates all the best parts of the previous six cuts and then turns them into an eclectic and eccentric concoction of everything that makes life worth leaving. This is excellent stuff!
8. On Top (De Press cover)
The bonus track that will appear on the vinyl version of the album (which will be released by Dark Essence Records) is a brilliant and mournful rendition of a 80s classic. What immediately struck me about this one is that it captures the essence and atmosphere of the original version and yet Hoest makes it his own and turns it into something that does not sound out of place at all in the overall context of “Kong Vinter”. There is some superb instrumental work going on here as well. Overall, it is impossible not to be carried away by this one and it is so damn catchy that you will find yourself reaching for the repeat button faster than you can say “Taake”.
In the overall perspective, “Kong Vinter” has more texture to it than I can possibly put into words or summarize here. The superb production courtesy of maestro Bjørnar E. Nilsen and the stellar musicianship only add to and enhance the overall listening experience. There is very little not to like about this one. The truly amazing and inspiring thing is that Taake, i.e. Hoest, consistently manages to surpass his previous work, which is to say that Taake has been on an upward curve creatively speaking for many years now and shows no sign of slowing down. “Kong Vinter” is not only focused and sharp; it also a manifestation of everything that any fan of Taake and quality black metal in general loves and cherishes. The album embodies all the different aspects that we have come to associate with Taake and then goes one step further by challenging and provoking strong reactions in us, more than ever before, that is. You need to familiarize yourself with this magnificent album on an intimate level and it has to be allowed to grow on you. This is neither easy listening nor run-of-the-mill black metal. “Kong Vinter” is so much more than. A delightful musical nightmare from which you will never awake, a moving and chilling journey through the necromantic underworld that Taake inhabits, or perhaps a thought-provoking statement of intent that is unlike any other black metal release out there? Who knows how to classify or summarize it? Once it is out, you will inevitably discover for yourself just how impressive the record is, but do heed my advice; in order to absorb and digest its musical content, you must allow it to consume you completely and wholeheartedly. In other words, you need to give in to the vortex that is Taake.
Keep checking the Taake and Dark Essence Records websites for more info regarding the release of “Kong Vinter” in November/December.
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