Well clearly we had to wait patiently till the end of the year for the 7th Taake album, after all even with the very rudimentary understanding of other languages it’s obvious the subject matter here is Winter. If you couldn’t get the title, one look at the album cover will affirm. I am sure I am not the only person thinking that we are in for a “Monster” cold season either and imagine a great ape trudging through the Norwegian forests here, abominable snowman like. As far as the band are concerned we have been incredibly fortunate due to the amount of times they have pitched up on our shores recently, playing absolutely explosive and scathing sets. As usual on album however frontman and multi-instrumentalist Hoest is going it completely alone. There are no guests or gimmicks here and none are needed either, the king of winter walks this frozen path alone, a solitary and desolate figure.

Musically rooted in traditionalism these songs form a journey in progression with the twisted blackened guitar melodies being incredibly strong and melodic throughout. Hoest allows everything to drive forward but with a huge sense of control about it all. As ever it is the atmosphere that he conjures up that seems the most important factor, far outweighing any desire for all out unrelenting extremity. It’s not even peppered with the normal (and no doubt expected) death grunts, it’s as though there is even a more mature heart at play here.

Do not let that put you off in the slightest though. The earthy amp plug in sound may well take seasoned blacksters back to the coruscating entry of Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal and early DIY Darkthrone but as ‘Sverdets Vei’ fully forms and everything flies in and drives away there is a perfect marriage of savagery and gracefulness. The vocal bark is as ever gnarly and bites with bloody snarls but when the first glorious guitar melody cuts in you will notice the progressive mind-set and be swept away by it as well as being chilled to the bone. Hoest makes everything seem so natural and well-formulated throughout, deftly handling a master-class of musicianship which is all the more impressive as he is doing it all himself. The bass definition is perfectly formed, the low end cutting through and the drumming perfectly attuned and far from one dimensional. Each track has its own personality and even though little pause between things there’s a clear demarcation point. A touch of the avant-garde comes in with ‘Inntrenger’ and there’s a couple of instances where a booming spoken voice rises above the music catching completely off guard but kind of making sense at the same time. It’s the fact that tracks like this are allowed to develop over time with the absolutely glorious guitar work sweeping you off your feet and lose yourself in the songs that is the real magic here. The bouncy workout at beginning of ‘Huset i havet’ is going to have a jump about at shows and a blood curdling scream is no doubt going to be replicated by all and sundry too. This certainly doesn’t forgo black roots and vocally goes for the throat, with big timpani drumming parts booming out and a slower gloomy melody at times creeping in. It’s Havet I Huset where the real strange and weird side of Norwegian black metal steps up though with some guitar work that is incredibly reminiscent of the likes of Virus, Ved Buens Ende et all creeps in. There’s stacks going on in the two tracks and they seem designed to be played together live, no doubt melting everyone’s heads in the process.

Letting loose with punked up blackened thrash ‘Jernhaand’ is a real banger and has that classic Taake sound flailing through it, a windswept stormy bombast that whips away furiously with a take no prisoners attitude. The guitar work is left to really enrapture us on Maanebrent and it is as though Hoest is playing around with following a similar musical path here to Enslaved; the progressive word may well be overused but here it is certainly countered with the more historical sound of the music. That leaves just a 10 minute epic (although the whole album is certainly epic) left and ‘Fra Bjoergegrend mot Glemselen’ is a thorny guitar sleigh ride through frozen wonderland with lean and mean starving wolves chasing you down kind of track. Use your imagination and just see where the album takes you; it’s one for bitter days and nights and one that sees this king truly retaining his throne none coming close to deposing him from glacial empire.

(9/10 Pete Woods)