- Year 2017
- Genre Black Metal
- Country Norway
- Label Dark Essence Records
- Rating Decent
The Pitch: The 7th album from controversial Norwegian black metal act, Taake. “Hoest, who plays every instrument on Kong Vinter himself, has ensured that the album is imbued with the unique Taake sound whilst at the same time developing it further. Kong Vinter is both progressive and straight forward, with a touch of the devil’s own music – rock’n’roll.”
With Kong Vinter, Taake has swung completely in the opposite direction; stripping itself back to basic foundations and crafting one of its most straightforward albums since Doedskvad.
What I Like: I feel as if for the last few albums, watching Hoest mature as an artist has been a game of “what will he do next?” Taake has always been a project firmly founded in 2nd wave ideals, but also not one to turn up its nose at experimentation. A little jaw harp here, a ripping banjo solo there (and damn was that impressive to see live); Hoest’s music has never been one to fully yield to convention. This melding of traditional BM tropes with outbursts of rebellious expression perhaps hit a high point with 2011’s Noregs vaapen, but just three years later led to what I consider to be the band’s first true misstep, Stridens hus. This album was high in experimentation, but lacked focus and ended up being somewhat forgettable in the end.
So where is a project to go in such a situation? Would Hoest find some new plane to explore with his latest outing? Would he hone previous lessons learned and this time position them into a more cohesive framework? Well, no actually. With Kong Vinter, Taake has swung completely in the opposite direction; stripping itself back to basic foundations and crafting one of its most straightforward albums since Doedskvad. Everything from the compositions to the production feels like we are jumping back in time to appreciate the simpler things that brought Hoest into the fold to begin with.
None of this is to say that Kong Vinter is a simple rehash of pure 2nd wave kvlt mayhem. Above all else, Taake has always been about the riffs, and in this Hoest does not fail. This album is full of his trademark jangling tremolo lines, quirky hooks, and rocking chord progressions. His musicianship is considerably more technical than peers from the same era, but never inaccessibly so. Perhaps most similar to Opeth, the guitarwork brings a certain bouncy virtuosity to the table. In just short of an hour, Kong Vinter takes us on another chilly journey through dark Norwegian landscapes that is simultaneously cloaked in melancholy and grim defiance.
Critiques: While Kong Vinter is ultimately a better album than Stridens hus, it still falls quite short of my personal favorites, Noregs vaapen and Nattestid Ser Porten Vid. Riffs are fun and engaging, but ultimately quite familiar. There are even a few passages that felt directly lifted from previous material. Furthermore, I have a love-hate relationship with the production choices. It’s heavy on the high end with almost no bass to speak of; which is a shame given that there are some cool bass guitar parts (“Fra Bjoergegrend mot Glemselen”). The resulting sound can get a little grating, but on the other hand it also helps to elicit a unique feeling of unease that goes perfectly with the genre.
While Kong Vinter is ultimately a better album than Stridens hus, it still falls quite short of my personal favorites, Noregs vaapen and Nattestid Ser Porten Vid.
The Verdict: If you are new to Taake, Kong Vinter isn’t a bad point of entry. It wouldn’t be my first recommendation, but it has all of the enjoyable elements that make Taake Taake. The riffs are strong, if familiar, and the compositions are alive with black metal spirit. If you are looking for something with a little more meat, I might suggest some of the albums already listed above. In any case, the best advice I can give is to catch the band live at any cost. Given the past visa issues, it’s already a rare opportunity in the US, but damn is it worth it to see Hoest in action.
Flight’s Fav’s: Huset i Havet, Havet i Huset, Maanebrent