I had the extreme pleasure of a listen to Ovate’s self-titled debut record on Soulseller Records. To be frank, it is a stunner. Western Norway, yet again, brings us some brilliantly crafted black metal.
Taake, as we know, is generally a one man operation in the studio but a five piece live. Taake’s current lineup features Gjermund on guitar (who is also in Orkan) and V’gandr on bass from Helheim fame. Helheim, by the way, is one of the best bands you probably have never heard or ever seen live, but they’re worth a trip to Norway alone, and with those cheap Icelandair fares out of Philadelphia, there’s no excuse not to go. Brodd has handled live drumming duties since 2014 and Aindiachai has been on guitar since 2007. I’ve seen this lineup of Taake live many times (and it’s never enough) both in North American and abroad and they simply bring it every single time without hesitation. It should be of little surprise that Brodd and Aindiachai’s band, Ovate, harnesses so much of that Taake energy and originality in composition.
To say, however, that Ovate and Taake are very similar is a bit of an overstatement. Granted, both bands are going to deviate from the norms in terms of song structure and composition and both are going to have an intense amount of tremolo, but Ovate takes the listener down a slightly more traditional path than some of the more recent Taake records.
The record opens with “Morgenstjerne.” It’s a nice mix of traditional black metal with tremolo picking and an overarching Viking sound. V’gandr of Helheim is the lead vocalist on the track and fans of Helheim will recognize both his lead voice work as well as the very Helheim-esque chorus that comes late in the track.
“Song til en orm” is the second track and features Hoest of Taake on vocals. The song starts out very black and roll and more reticent of later Norwegian style sonics. Hoest’s phrasing is very typical Hoest and fits well in the mix. There are a number of changes in the song with a very significant turn about midway through. “Song,” in its later segments, takes the listener down slightly darker variations of the earlier theme and riffs. The tremolo slows down a bit and Hoest’s vocals are a given a bit more space in the final minutes. Four and a half minutes we get a solo that then takes us through to some layered lead work through the rest of the track.
“Illhug” is a bit slower than the first two tracks. There is a ton of interesting lead work in the latter part of the track and this is one of the distinctive characteristics that separates Ovate from Taake. Not this is a bad thing by any stretch because I unabashedly wear my love for Taake on my sleeve (and my jacket) and all over the internets, rather infamously.
The fourth track, “The Horned Forest King” reminds me a bit of Carpathian Forest with its atmosphere and tempo. Lots of thick rhythm work going on in this song and expertly mixed vocals by Odemark (from the 3rd Attempt) on top of it. There are also some gang vocals here and there, taking a page out of the NYHC playbook. Gotta love that. Other familiar guest vocalists include Eld from Krakow and Aeternus and Ese from Slegest. Both provide stellar performances on extremely well-crafted songs.
All in all, Ovate bring us a five track release that is certainly is familiar to Norwegian black metal listeners, yet also refreshingly different. Brodd and Aindiachai have really put together something special here. While it is still quite early in the year, I’m ranking Ovate’s s/t debut as one of the ten best records I’ve heard in 2018.
Ovate releases June 1 on Soulseller Records and is available for pre-order here from aisa merch. Black vinyl is limited to 300 copies.