TAAKE - Hordaland Doedskvad (AGONIA / DARK ESSENCE - LP 2005)
People are funny sometimes in their never stopping critique of everything what is Norwegian. Some dull and useless opinions would even dare to say that this country hasn’t produced anything exceptional ever since the early 90’s and the good, cult early releases of Darkthrone, Ulver, Satyricon and Mayhem. What a perfect example for jerkism, jealousy and lack of musical taste… What about all those exceptional and killer releases of Thorns, 1349, Urgehal, Orcustus, Gehenna, Svarttjern, Helheim – to name only few! – which happened later, in the new millennium??!! And what the fuck about Taake, probably the greatest black metal band from Norway of the past decade? Is this still not enough for you for the proof that this country always had exceptional black metal to offer and often was standing a step forward, comparing it to the rest of the world? Taake… Yeah, this band is the finest example for the supremacy of the Norwegian black metal and their 2005 release “Hordalands Doedskvad” definitely belongs to the finest releases of this band… and to the whole Norsk Black Metal at all. Taake already had a couple of excellent releases behind their belt (mainly the awesome second LP “Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik”), but even if I really like both previous full lengths, I must say that they’re just not as good as this third LP is.
I love every aspect of “Hordalands Doedskvad”. Truly, I do. The album is not only amazingly written and perfectly recorded, but also is catchy as hell; which is quite surprising, as we speak of the black metal record, so music which in its nature should be disgusting, obscure and be everything, but no fun. I don’t wanna say that Taake on their “Death Chants from Hordaland” sounds happy and joyful, not at all; it also isn’t quasi symphonic and commercial like Dimmu Borgir. It still is damn vicious, cold, dark and malevolent music, but damn me, if many of those riffs didn’t hook me up immediately and I ended up screaming the lyrics along with Hoest and banging my head in the frenzy rhythm of that music? Right from the very first second, when Hoest screams out “Helnorsk Svartmetall!!!!!” and then that melodic, folky riff blows the speakers out, you’re there for good – right in the middle of that cold and gloomy atmosphere. Actually that opening song “Hordaland Doedskvad Part I” (the titles are not too clever, being just parts I up to VII) is a perfect example for the brilliancy of Taake’s music. Great riffing, quite melodic like I already said, but at the same time one can almost spot how deeply rooted those riffs are in the traditional Norwegian black metal. For me it just sounds excellent, especially as I also really like Hoest’s vocals and probably the only thing, which I do not enjoy so much in this first song – but which doesn’t disturb me totally – are Nattefrost’s guest screams here and there. Anyway, if you don’t believe how great is that song and how brilliant is its atmosphere, then just listen to that break part close to the end of the song... What a masterpiece. It is extreme, but still so beautifully (bllaaahhh, I mean disgustingly) melodic and catchy, that I cannot imagine someone, who’s into this music not to get infected by Taake with this song. In my opinion they have here some of the best black metal guitar parts ever composed by the Norwegian black metal and that is a fact!
But the passion for cold and majestic, epic black metal doesn’t end up on this one, opening song. Sure, “Part I” is an incredibly amazing anthem, but more is yet to come. Every damn track on “Hordaland Doedskvad” actually sounds fantastic and has something exceptional to offer. And since the whole has been played usually in mid paced tempo, the album is soaked with energy and infectious power, there’s no place for boredom and unimpressive playing on any part of the LP… And that riffing, man, I love it. I guess some may find those folkish harmonies as too trivial, but fuck them. This album is filled with passion, great feeling and killer atmosphere and if one will find those folk melodies as annoying, then it only is his problem. Go and listen to your Nargaroth or Mutiilation. But before that, listen to the instrumental “Hordaland Doedskvad Part VI” and tell me, if those riffs won’t fasten your heart beat and really cause some serious neck damage, when you keep banging your skull in excitement. Taake’s songwriting is just superbly good, the band never fails to deliver a killer tunes and whether it’s “Part I”, “Part VI” or another my favourite, “Part III”, the tension is always there and you just must admire how these songs have been built – with many tempo changes, great long instrumental parts, effective breaks and impressive play of every instrument, plus also an extra positive word must be said about Hoest’s rasp voice, which is just great and surely he’s one of the most characteristic and charismatic black metal vocalists out there. On top of everything what I mentioned, I’ll add the production of “Hordaland Doedskvad”, which is just superb; Grieghallen Studio delivered a stunning sound, very powerful, very deep and perfectly suitable for such emotional music. In my opinion this album is one of best productions, which came from this studio – everything, starting with a killer guitar tone and finishing on the great sounding drums, has been amazing and only helps in listening to the music.
If one needs a conclusion, then there can be only one – “Hordaland Doedskvad” is a fantastic record, really. Being a fan of black metal, Norwegian bands especially, I will always treat this album as one of the most thrilling pieces of music that have ever been created up in the North. Obviously I’ll always love “Bertgatt”, “Nemesis Divina”, “Again Shall Be…”, “Under a Funeral Moon”, “Seen Through the Veils of Darkness”, ”Moon in the Scorpio” and “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”, plus many more, which I’m not gonna mention now, all those albums are perfect. And “Hordaland Doedskvad” is among them, as equally memorable and classic. This is just pure CULT!
Standout tracks: “Part I”, “Part III”, “Part VI”
Final rate: 98/100