Well, nearly three years have elapsed since Bergen’s Taake released their last full-length, Stridens Hus (tr. House of Strife), so its time for another record to hit this season, and Kong Vinter (tr. King Winter) will be dropping this November 24th. In the meantime, as per Taake’s recent modus operandi, fast moving fans are able to get a taste of the new record a bit beforehand via a limited release MCD. In the past fans were treated to now classic (and very hard to find) MCDs Kulde (Tr. Cold), Kveld (Tr. Evening) and Nekro. This newest one, released last week in Norway, is entitled Baktanker (tr. Ulterior Motives). It’s limited to 777 copies on CD and 555 copies on 12 inch vinyl. Each signed by Hoest himself. You can order the CD direct from Svartekunst Produksjoner and if you act quickly you may actually be able to order one before they’re sold out. The 12 inch is already on back order and will be shipping in November.
Baktanker opens with “Havet I Huset,” from the forthcoming full-length LP. This is a song that is going to give you so much in such a short span of time. It opens with classic Taake feedback followed by some tremolo guitar with leads on top of it – all in a bed of blasting drums. At 0:45 in though you start to get some of that Stridens Hus style groove only to be welcomed into some Noregs Vaapen sounding lead work about 20 seconds later. Two minutes in you get the first verse and Hoest gives a slightly darker, more distant vocal performance than you might be used to. Layered tremolo follows for a bit and then comes the classic Taake style bridge with yet more hooks. Taake takes you into a bit of a breakdown right after the halfway mark of the track – again, taking us back a bit to progressions reticent of Stridens Hus. The song wraps up (after a brief rest) with some more heavy groove, but a bit more intense and rhythmic at this point. It is actually rather surprising, even for those of us who have been floored before with Taake’s past surprises – whether it be a banjo solo, a mouth harp, or an obscure sample that comes seemingly out of nowhere…but this is what Taake does so well – momentarily disorient the listener and make you have to stop and think for a moment. “Did I just hear THAT?” You can’t’ just listen to Taake and “get it” on the first listen, and just when you think you understand Hoest, you soon realize that you really don’t. This is part of Hoest’s craft and why his listeners are so devoted to him. At the same time, it’s part of what makes Taake rather inaccessible to the general metal listening community who would rather have everything spelled out for them in their music.
Hoest, as many know, is an avid Jorg Buttgereit (creator of horror films such as Der Todesking) fan, and as one of the few scholars who has studied (and written about) his work, I can say that one of the keys to Buttgereit’s films is that you can’t merely watch his work and understand. You might think you understand, you might think you know what’s happening on screen at first glance, but you don’t. You have to grapple with the material and the (often) vague intersections presented on screen and then reflect on it for a bit. It doesn’t come easy to the viewer and parts may not make sense until you are really able to contextualize what you’ve viewed. There is a mystery to the films as there is a mystery to Taake.
Many, like myself, appreciate that when you are a fan of Taake you never really know what to expect in terms of the music that main composer, instrumentalist and vocalist Hoest is up to. He no longer speaks to the media (justifiably so) and doesn’t mention much about what he’s creating to anyone as he creates it. He goes into the studio in Bergen and comes out with masterful song after song. So even though I proudly own every piece of music Taake has ever put out and I’ve seen Hoest out and about at countless bars and restaurants in Norway, I had no idea what to really expect when I put this disc in and how long it would take to interpret it. Even after listening to the first four records hundreds, if not thousands of times, I’m still discovering things in those songs. And when one sees that his latest production features two cover songs, you have a feeling you’re in for something entirely different.
Taake has given us some masterful covers over the course of their existence. Kulde featured a cover from the Cure (!!) with their rendition of “Cold.” Hoest and company were able to take a dark and depressing song and make it even more dark and depressing. Hoest’s cover of Burzum’s “A Lost Forgotten Sad Spirit” is, to be frank, better than Burzum’s version of the original. So when I read that Taake was covering De Press’ “Lars Hertervig,” my desire to pop this track into my CD player was even more urgent.
De Press is a new wave band based out of Oslo and has that classic early 1980’s darker new wave sound with a reduced emphasis on synths compared to the pop-ier new wave we all remember from Top 40 radio. Think Joy Division, very early Cure and similar European bands from that era. “Lars Hertervig,” had it been recorded in English, could have easily appeared on the (now legendary) Miami Vice score/soundtrack in its epically crafted first season in 1984. The original is a melancholy track with prominent but simple bass and drums with guitar in the higher registers and some scarce synth work. Andrzej Dziubek fronts the band and his solemn yet Machesteresque voice and spot on bass work is all over the original track. Hoest, no slouch on bass himself, does a yeoman’s job on the cover version and also handles the drums. He leaves the vocal work to Thurzur (of Deathcult) who, quite honestly, channels a young, slightly bleaker Andrzej. It’s rather uncanny and gut-wrenchingly brilliant and moving at the same time. Guitars are aptly handled by usual Taake axman Germund.
Of course the cover that is going to get everyone in gentrified Brooklyn going is Taake’s take on Darkthrone’s “The Dance of Eternal Shadows.” This is a risky move for Hoest as this is arguably one of Darkthrone’s greatest songs. While clearly paying homage to the original, we get a slightly cleaner recording of this classic. There are many similarities between the versions but at about 1:28 into the track you start to really get that classic Taake guitar tone come to life along with their signature drum and cymbal sound. It’s a wonderful cover that is true to Fenriz and Nocturno Culto’s recording but with added flavor that is distinctively Hoest.
The CD closes with the “under the table” version of Fra Vadested som Vaandesmed. If you don’t know what record this song originally appears on, your passport to Bergen Lufthavn doesn’t get stamped and you’ll have to continue to listen to USBM from the friendly, suburban, and wealthy confines of Burlington County, New Jersey. We get an amped up, slightly freshened version of the song with some more prominent drums and bass in the mix and a different vocal track. This version of the song, by the way, is worth the price of the CD alone.
Herbrand Larsen, of Enslaved fame handles the mastering on this and the cover art is created by H’grimnir who we all know from Helheim.
In all, this is another brilliant release from Taake, a band that many North Americans are afraid of and fail to grasp. But like any good art, it often takes time to appreciate and interpret. I know I’ll look forward to grappling with the upcoming November full-length for at least the next three years.