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Review for 'Taake - Hordalands Doedskvad'
I can imagine that for some up-and-coming Black Metal bands in recent years, it must have been somewhat depressing, or at least demotivating for their musicians if they happened to listen to Taake's Hordalands Doedskvad while seeking inspiration, because not only would they find more inspiration than they bargained for, but also their ambitions to become a successful Black Metal band would have gradually evaporated over its 50 minute duration. Okay, maybe that was a bit extreme, but it's certainly a possibility because Taake's Hordalands Doedskvad is indeed so damn good that it just makes almost everything else sound like mediocre shit in comparison, as anyone who has already had the pleasure of listening to it will be able to confirm. And that, I'm afraid, isn't an exaggeration.
Taake was formed in 1993 under the name Thule by Ørjan "Hoest" Stedjeberg, before he changed the name to Taake in 1995. Since then he has produced some of the finest Black Metal albums ever recorded, each one being driven by his sublime guitar work and characteristic vocals. The first three albums that Taake released are, in chronological order, Nattestid Ser Porten Vid from 1999, Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik from 2002, and Hordalands Doedskvad from 2005, with all three forming the "Nattestid... Bjoergvin... Doedskvad" trilogy. The albums are musically similar, however despite forming a trilogy they do not rely on each other, with each one bearing it's own slightly distinct sound and each being perfectly capable of standing out by it's own greatness. The fact that they form a trilogy is merely a side-note, and whether one has listened to the previous two albums or not will have no influence upon how much the listener enjoys Hordalands Doedskvad.
Hordalands Doedskvad, just like Taake's two previous albums, features a total of seven "chapters", with each track being simply numbered from one to seven rather than assigning a specific title to each track. While this usually pisses me off when wanting to take a look at the album's tracklist and be able to instantly let one's imagination run wild upon reading each unique title while listening to it, and being able to easily identify it on subsequent listens, it doesn't actually present a problem on Hordalands Doedskvad because it serves as a reminder that there is only one correct way to listen to a decent Black Metal album, and that is listening to it as a whole and treating it as one indivisible work of art. Or maybe I'm just bad at remembering numbers. Curiously, the reason behind every Taake album consisting of exactly seven tracks is in honor of the seven mountains that surround Bergen, Hoest's home town in Norway and main source of his inspiration. The album's title translates into English as "Hordaland's Deathchant", with Hordaland being the county where Bergen is located, on the south-western coast of Norway.
The music itself has everything you could wish for in a Black Metal album. The guitars, as mentioned above, are nothing short of sublime, and it's safe to say that the guitars are what any Taake album is all about. There is a crisp but not too clean production on them that makes each note really stand out in a similar fashion to Satyricon's Nemesis Divina, not to mention that the riffs themselves are pure genius. Hoest's vocals shine through as always, sounding quite unlike any other Black Metal vocalist that comes to mind, except maybe for Nattefrost from Carpathian Forest and Arkhorrl from Aetherius Obscuritas. The drums, performed by Tormod "Mord" Haraldson, are also fantastic and don't feature too heavily in the mix as to distract from the guitars, but are consistent and varied enough to make you notice them, contributing to the album's perfection. Lastly, there are a number of memorable tempo changes spread throughout Hordalands Doedskvad that once again prove why Hoest is a master of songwriting. The first song is all it will take to convince you of this, and it just gets better as the album progresses.
As with almost every Taake album, Hoest counts with the collaboration of a number of renowned figures within the Black Metal scene for most of the songs on Hordalands Doedskvad, although on this particular occasion they are limited mainly to vocal contributions. They are Roger "Nattefrost" Rasmussen and Johnny "Nordavind" Krøvel of Carpathian Forest fame, Christer "Taipan" Jensen from Orcustus, and three lesser known vocalists named Disgustor, Stoever and Steigen, with the latter also being credited as a producer on the album. Also contributing on the last track of Hordalands Doedskvad is a musician by the name of Utflod who contributes his piano skills. While minimal and not particularly noticeable, the occasional appearance of slighly different vocal performances gives the whole album that little added depth. Not that it needed it, but it's a detail, and details are great.
Returning to the hypothetical up-and-coming Black Metal band that became disheartened as a result of listening to Hordalands Doedskvad, what would really get to them is the apparent effortlessness with which Hoest has come up with each song. While it no doubt took him a considerable amount of time and equal amounts of inspiration and sheer talent to write each song, the end result fits together so perfectly and is so flawless that it gives the impression that he just woke up one day with the whole album already conceived in his mind, and simply wrote it all down, in much the same way that Mozart is famous for having done back in his day. This is what I mean when I say that it just makes almost everything else sound like mediocre shit in comparison. All the time you come across average bands that just try hard and fail harder to come up with anything remotely satisfying to listen to, and then you come across something like Hordalands Doedskvad that just blows you away with such apparent ease that it makes you wonder, how can anyone compete with Taake? Not many, that's for sure.
I'll finish off the review with a little statistic I like to tell people. Taake has released a total of five full length albums, four of which were in our Top 100 Black Metal Albums list at the time of writing this review. For those of you who haven't yet listened to any of Taake's works, this may seem biased. Everyone else who has listened to a Taake album will understand perfectly, and will agree that Hordalands Doedskvad specifically is one of the genre's modern classics.
What other albums sound similar to this?
As has already been mentioned, Taake have released a total of four excellent albums in addition to Hordalands Doedskvad. Preceeding this album are the Nattestid Ser Porten Vid album from 1999 and the Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik album from 2002, with both albums bearing a strong resemblance to Hordalands Doedskvad in the way the instruments are played and the way the songs are structured, and of course both featuring Hoest's chilling vocals that one cannot ignore when finding similar sounding albums.
If you want an album equal to Hordalands Doedskvad, it doesn't get much closer than these two gems. Slightly less similar but still featuring the pure Taake sound are Hoest's more recent albums, the self-titled Taake album released in 2008, and his latest masterpiece Noregs Vaapen released not long ago in 2011. These last two albums differentiate themselves from the first three by presenting a slightly cleaner production and also due to the fact that the songs have individual titles. Do not let the slightly cleaner production put you off... after all, this is Taake we are talking about. It works like a charm.
Beyond Taake territory, it is very hard to come up with adequate suggestions for albums that sound similar to Hordalands Doedskvad, with one exception. Satyricon's Nemesis Divina, one of Black Metal's most acclaimed masterpieces, shares many musical similarities with Hordalands Doedskvad, particularly in the guitar department, and is a definite must for anyone who considers themselves a fan of Black Metal.
If it's Hoest's distinct raspy vocals you are seeking, you should also definitely check out Ragnarok's Blackdoor Miracle where he performed as session vocalist, and also check out recent albums by Hungarian band Aetherius Obscuritas, whose vocalist shares a similar style to Hoest, as well as Armagedda's The Final War Approaching album and also works by fellow Norwegians Carpathian Forest.
In a nutshell...
While I keep telling people to check out Taake's latest album from 2011, Noregs Vaapen, currently my favourite Taake album, this is just my current personal preference for it's impressive innovation, accessibility, and admiration for fact that Hoest wasn't afraid to take Taake's music one step further. However, when it comes down to it, as far as good old-fashioned Norwegian Black Metal goes, Hordalands Doedskvad is Taake's best album, and one of the finest Norwegian Black Metal albums ever produced, and probably the finest Norwegian Black Metal released in the last decade. The musical perfection that permeates it from start to finish places it right up there with the very best of the genre, including all the classics. Hordalands Doedskvad is to Black Metal what Rolls Royce is to the car industry. Pure fucking quality.
Site Admin - BestBlackMetalAlbums.com
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