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Review for 'Taake - Noregs Vaapen'
Ever since he founded Taake in 1993 under the name Thule, Ørjan "Hoest" Stedjeberg has consistently delivered top-notch Black Metal albums without fail, with some of the genre's most revered and highly regarded albums under his belt. Hoest's latest album to be released through Taake is titled Noregs Vaapen, and is no exception to the unwritten Taake tradition, with said tradition being pure fucking quality from start to finish.
Interestingly, although Hoest has counted with the collaboration of notable Black Metal musicians on many of his previous albums, on this occasion they are particularly worth mentioning. Demonaz Doom Occulta from Immortal, Nocturno Culto from Darkthrone, V'gandr from Helheim, Skagg from Deathcult and the great Attila Csihar from Mayhem & Tormentor all contribute vocals on four of the album's tracks, while Lava from Aeternus, Aindiachaí from Druid and Gjeddo from Syrach handle lead guitars on multiple parts of the album, with the latter also performing many of the album's intriguing instrumental highlights, including a bow, a mandolin, and... wait for it... a banjo!
That's right, you read correctly, a banjo. Firstly, I should point out that both the bow and the mandolin are used to great effect on their individual appearances on Noregs Vaapen, something which you may have already suspected considering Hoest's and be eager to find out, but I'm sure you are still in disbelief about the banjo, and have probably resorted to thinking that it has been used in some kind of unconventional manner to achieve a specific sound, and that it barely resembles a banjo.
Well, you are mistaken, as the banjo makes one appearance during Noregs Vaapen, taking center stage while it lasts, and is played in the good old-fashioned banjo style that we all recognize from any Hollywood movie featuring Hillbillys and car chases. It should also be noted that it somehow fits perfectly in place with the song and the album as a whole, and will even make the most avid of banjo-haters change their mind, although it might take a couple of listens before its appearance makes sense. I won't reveal which songs feature each of the exotic instruments mentioned because it really is a pleasant surprise in each case, especially the mandolin.
Guest musicians and foreign instruments aside, Noregs Vaapen is still a very solid Taake album, with all the usual traits that anyone would expect from Hoest: His trademark screeching vocals, creative guitar riffs that make Infernus seem amateur, lyrics written entirely in Norwegian, impeccable drumming, and some genius songwriting that make the whole album really stick together. Regarding the album's atmosphere, it goes without saying that you can feel a sense of northern darkness typical for any true Norwegian Black Metal album, even though Noregs Vaapen has a relatively cleaner production than most (but curiously also sounding more natural than most).
To round things off, I will mention that (according to Google's Auto-Translator) Noregs Vaapen translates from Norwegian into English as "Norwegian Weapons". Although one's first impression upon finding this out would be to consider that the title would better suit a Black Metal album of the more blasphemic and aggressive variety, the truth is that after each listen, the chosen album title seems ever more appropiate, giving the listener that small but important additional piece of insight into Hoest's creativity that makes the experience complete.
What other albums sound similar to this?
Noregs Vaapen is just one of those albums that has a soul of it's own, with it's own distinct sound, and enough details to derail a train. Firstly, Taake's self titled Taake album from 2008 is also a great release, and actually does resemble Noregs Vaapen in many respects, but doesn't quite reach the level of quality presented on the latter. However, details aside, if it's the songwriting of a genius you are searching for, then look no further than Taake's other fantastic albums such as Nattestid Ser Porten Vid, Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik and especially Hordalands Doedskvad, all of them being included in our Top 100 Black Metal Albums list at the time of writing this review.
Also, special mention to Bifrost by Elite, and Frostnacht by Helrunar, each sharing some similarities with Noregs Vaapen.
In a nutshell...
Hoest has always been one of the leading creative forces in Norwegian Black Metal, and Noregs Vaapen is one of the greatest examples of this fact, bringing together all of his musical experience and inspiration into one of the finest Black Metal albums to ever come out of Norway. The fact that some of the most talented Black Metal musicians around have contributed to Noregs Vaapen, a joy to behold in itself, is merely a bonus point in comparison. Highly recommended for everyone with ears.
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