Taake - Stridens Hus - (6/10)
Published on December 6, 2014
The waning fog.
Always one for tradition, enigmatic multi-instrumentalist and charismatic frontman Hoest has been on a strict schedule, releasing one seven-track album every third year since 1999. It’s December 2014, and as the first snow falls the time seems right for a new Taake-album. Although the 2011 outing Noregs Vaapen undeniably had its moments, the crowning jewel in Hoest’s discography remains his sprawling Nattestid/Bjoergvin/Doedskvad-trilogy. The gold standard of third wave Norwegian black metal, the trilogy differed from its successors by having a whole band participating in the songwriting, instead of just Hoest. It’s an exciting prospect, then, that Stridens Hus, which roughly translates to “House of Strife” or “House of War”, is the first Taake-release since Doedskvad featuring artistic input from Hoest’s live band. Perhaps this broadening of horizons will contribute to the grander atmosphere that made the trilogy so remarkable.
With three years to write and refine these seven songs, there is no shortage of good riffs throughout Stridens Hus. Album opener “Gamle Norig” feels like a return to the deep fjords of Hordaland, majestic in its atmospheric might. The icy cold guitars are classic Taake, with memorable hooks and rolling melodies, accentuated by Hoest’s traditional snarls and commandeering roars. Both the musical palette and the lyrical themes are recognizably nationalistic, which only adds to the uniqueness of that classic Taake-sound. The sweeping grandeur is punctuated with aggressive outbursts, giving the music a punky edge, which carries over into “Orm”. Sporting more of a rock and roll groove, things soon take a turn for the somewhat odd.
Now, it’s no secret that Hoest has a penchant for weird touches, most recently the infamous banjo-solo on “Myr”, but the scattershot rock and roll riffs, distorted effects, and wailing solos spread throughout Stridens Hus often feel completely misplaced, spoiling the otherwise solid atmospherics. On “Orm” the oddball riffs work, as they are purely transitional and really quite short. “Det Fins En Prins” goes one step further, interspersing the melodious sections with more furiously thrashy riffs, which makes for a varied number that nevertheless begins straining the album’s coherency. Beginning with “Stank”, the punk rock intensity and thumping riffs are starting to become wearisome, only broken up by a short out of place surf rock solo, before the song trails off to nowhere in particular with what sounds like a recycled Bjoergvin-riff.
As mentioned, if Hoest has spent the three years since Noregs Vaapen writing riffs, it feels as though he should have spent more time actually penning songs. The instrumental “En Sang Til Sand Om Ildebrann” is the worst offender here, sounding more like a series of previously unused riffs put together into something barely resembling an actual song. If you listen to Taake for the riffs, this probably won’t be much of a problem. However, if you are here for finely crafted songs you are likely to be very disillusioned by the latter half of Stridens Hus. On album closer “Vinger”, an Ildjarn-esque pounding riff is only relieved by the same old blackened thrash sound that Taake keeps returning to since their self-titled album. It’s a formula that is wearing thin, since there is little to set these tracks apart from other, better, blackened thrash bands.
If this sounds like an inordinate amount of scorn, I’ll reiterate that the first three tracks on Stridens Hus are genuinely good Taake material, weaving together a lot of the old and a touch of the new. Around the half-way mark it disappointingly starts falling apart, as the quality deteriorates into a somewhat jumbled mess of ideas. Of course this was never going to be the spiritual successor to Doedskvad, and there are some great parts throughout the album, but the unfocused lack of coherence mixed with the uninspired thrashy sections makes Stridens Hus an embodiment of going one step forwards and two steps back. As a result, this is merely an okay black metal album, and a weak one coming from Taake.