Even though the phrase is far too often used to announce the release of a new album, a new Taake album is certainly one of those albums that fits the “highly anticipated” label. Especially considering that, despite the release of numerous split releases and extensively tours, six years is a rather long wait between full-lengths. But now the moment of truth is here, the release of record number eight, ‘Et hav av avstand’.
Taake’s ‘Nattestid ser porten vid’ can rightfully be claimed as a Black Metal classic that rejuvenated the Norwegian Black Metal genre. Its follow-up was not without some controversy however, as the mouth harp used on the sophomore album ‘Over bjoergvin graater himmerik’ caused quite some division. While it didn’t stop me from enjoying the album (outside that 20 years later I still remember the exact moment when I first heard it…), my interest waned around the third album ‘Hordalands doedskvad’. While always recognisable, the subsequent albums simply didn’t have the same impact on me. So given the preparation to envelop myself in the new album, the deep dive into ‘Et hav av avstand’ was just as much a revisit of those albums.
Listening back through time, the way Taake have combined the classic second wave Black Metal foundation of Darkthrone and Gorgoroth with the more epic sound of Ulver, Enslaved and Borknagar is one of the key things that have made them the respected Black Metal force they have become this day. In that sense, maybe not a whole lot has changed from the debut. Main man Hoest has an uncanny eye and ear for riffs. He is also not the person to shy some experimentation, of which the mouth harp on ‘Over bjoergvin graater himmerik’ and banjo on ‘Noregs vaapen’ are just a few of the more extreme examples. But despite this, the music of Taake has gradually taken a shift that became most obvious on the record ‘Kong vinter’. The more classical approach to music had always had a fair share of tapping riffs typical for early Gorgoroth and Dødheimsgard, but these rose much more obviously to the forefront on aforementioned album. It certainly made it a more adventurous and challenging listen than its predecessor. And with ‘Et hav av avstand’, Taake continues in this vein.
While you could say that compared to ‘Kong vinter’ the music on the new album does not seem to have drastically changed, I would argue that’s not entirely true. Yes, we do find this same mix of more elaborate and adventurous riffs with the more classic Taake framework. Yet, the main difference lies in that three out of the four songs on ‘Et hav av avstand’ clock in at over 11 minutes as opposed to the generally more compact songs on ‘Kong Vinter’. This means that on ‘Et hav av avstand’ there is more room for stretched out instrumental passages, which are at time hypnotically repetitive and at other times a barrage of different riffs. ‘Denne forblaaste ruin av en bro’ is an example of the latter, a song that starts as classic Taake with one of those memorable Hoest riffs and his razor sharp vocals. The thick bass sound is excellent, and is quite obvious in the mix as the guitars are a little bit less raw than before. I personally find it a bit on the clean side, but that’s not my major concern with the album. The mix of classical Taake riffs and the meandering, rather directionless tapping riffs makes it come across as a rather nervous amalgam of riffs. It alternates from catchy and epic to rather confusing and ultimately can be summarized as a story that starts off promising and captivating, then dips for a large part only to come back to a somewhat interesting conclusion near the end. The following ‘Utarmede gruver’ has a lot of the same elements, but a different structure of the song. Once again the start is fascinating, vintage Taake with great vocal lines and catchy riffs. What then follows is a minute long alteration between a tapping meandering riff and more classic uptempo chord sections. A pretty interesting variation which slowly builds on the entrancing repetitive element, but in the end is a bit too much of the same thing as the song feels like it could have done with a few minutes of trimming.
The other two songs are more to my liking. Perhaps because ‘Gid sprakk vi’ is a more onedimensional punch in the face in the vein of the older albums, which is exactly what I craved after the at time directionless first two songs. Therefore perhaps not surprisingly, the shortest song of the album is the one that leaves the best impression. Having said that, the closing track ‘Et uhyre av en kniv’ may be the longest out of the four clocking in at thirteen minutes, but it feels more balanced than the other two lengthy compositions. It’s another epic song with a somewhat dreamy layer of guitars and a sound that touches upon the later work of Enslaved. There are memorable riffs that showcase the talent of Hoest scattered allover the song, and it mostly feels much more cohesive in its predominantly instrumental glory as the song builds towards an apotheosis. Although to be honest, the last few minutes feel rather uneventful.
This is obviously still the same band that created the brilliant ‘Nattestid ser porten vid’, and flashes of that excellence can be found allover ‘Et hav av avstand’. But to me it often sounds incoherent. Credit to Taake for not sticking with the same formula, but I have a hard time with compositions over 10 minutes in length that seem at times directionless. While I understand that many people will love the expanded sound of the familiar Taake universe, I will accept the risk that I sound like a grumpy old man that’s stuck in his “the first album is the best” ways by saying this is nowhere near the phenomenal debut.