A sublime new opus is now upon us. Taake’s long-awaited eighth full-length album, Et Hav av Avstand, is set to drop on September 1, six years after the band’s last full-length release, Kong vinter. Taake ranks among the most well-known and globally revered names in all of black metal; Bergens Tidende, one of Norway’s leading papers, has called Taake “the most interesting and uncompromising Norwegian band in the genre.” Et Hav av Avstand proves that the Norwegian Grammys are crazy for only giving Taake a nomination for Noregs vaapen (2011), “Norway’s Weapon,” but never a win.
Et Hav av Avstand consists of four tracks. The entire sonic voyage lasts just over an unforgettable 42 minutes. Although three of the songs are more than 11 minutes long, this charismatic effort keeps listeners firmly under its spell. This is the type of mesmerizing offering that constantly draws you back in for repeated plays throughout your day. After all, you might need to listen to Et Hav av Avstand a few times before you even begin to properly grasp it; however, once you do, this record turns into a massive earworm. Et Hav av Avstand creates an oddly challenging yet highly rewarding experience that can be compared to classical music.
Hoest, Taake’s mastermind, handles vocals and all instruments himself. Although Taake has had other members and worked with a long list of guests in the past, we are happy when Hoest acts as a lone wolf. Hoest’s willingness to take on all roles here has resulted in a totally cohesive, remarkably balanced product that demonstrates his clear-sighted artistic vision. His vocals are brutal and authentic, as we expect them. There is always an infectious sense of physical energy that radiates from the performances of this black metal magician. Hoest slays us with excellent drums and lethal riffs. Yet, despite the music’s ferocity, a masterful sense of restraint remains present. In order to catch all of the nuances, Hoest forces you to turn the volume up and listen intently.
At first, Et Hav av Avstand may seem like a rainbow painted with the many shades of gray. Yet, when examined more closely, the record morphs into a psychedelic wonder. The music offers ideally placed bold bursts of color. These frequently arise from the gorgeous guitar work and basslines, which partially serve as ear candy. We must note that there is especially wicked bass on the final track, “Et Uhyre av en Kniv.” This composition sometimes provides us with an overpowering sense of doom and gloom and fills the mind’s eye with images of carnival horrors. Hoest sprinkles in some soundbites at different points during the album that create a trippy effect due to their combination with the misanthropic music.
Et Hav av Avstand takes you through the full gamut of emotions. Despite its melancholia, Et Hav av Avstand also induces ecstasy. As savage as Et Hav av Avstand may be in the right places, this album is quite fun and even pleasantly amusing at times. For example, we hear lovely vocalizations that sound like the orgasm of a dying animal toward the end of the first song, “Denne forblaaste Ruin av en Bro.” After all, Et Hav av Avstand touches you in all the most intimate places. If its beauty doesn’t make you wet in the eyes and the nether regions sooner or later, book an appointment with a shrink and a physician.
The legendary Hoest is, of course, beloved for his brilliant songwriting. He does not disappoint fans in that regard here. Et Hav av Avstand presents us with a ton of surprises that represent Hoest’s fearlessness, creative freedom, and wild side. Each composition is full of a dizzying number of changes. The album is reminiscent of a walk off the beaten path through the woods — you never know where it will lead, and thus constantly encounter new discoveries. The juxtaposition that Hoest creates between rugged and sophisticated elements will leave you speechless. Hoest crafts breathtaking melodies. His wicked grooves often hit you from left field yet just might force you to dance like a lunatic.
As Taake fans will assume, Et Hav av Avstand perfectly captures the essence of Bergen. This homespun album is majestic and lofty as the cliffs hanging above the fjords, the marine beauty of which is also reflected. Taake’s work always feels like a glorious and romantic tribute to the Norwegian spirit as well as the greatness of the country’s landscapes, though certain sections can be as smoldering as California sunshine. While remaining an innovator, Taake honors the past.
Indeed, Et Hav av Avstand is a continuation of ’90s black metal tradition in certain respects — Hoest founded Taake as Thule in 1993 with fellow musician Svartulv, and the band adopted its current name in 1995. Taake is not only old-school in the sense that Hoest stays true to his history, but also insofar as Hoest incorporates rock and metal influences that pre-date the second wave of black metal. This record hits us with dazzling retro vibes and feels like a journey through the decades.
Et Hav av Avstand furthermore delivers an abstract feeling of punk defiance, folk roots, bluesy coolness, and so forth. Ultimately, Hoest added the ideal amount of progressive impulses. His experiments never dilute the music, which should be applauded for its iron-firm backbone. Interestingly, Et Hav av Avstand manages to come across as far more wayward than a lot of crazy avant-garde releases because the music flows from an honest place.
Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen produced, engineered, and mixed the album. He did a fantastic job indeed. Nilsen preserved the music’s rawness, character, and intimacy; Taake’s art is always distinguished by its exceptionally organic nature. Fortunately, Nilsen’s work contributed to a product that sounds wholly professional as well.
Yes, the victorious Et Hav av Avstand is bound to prove timeless. It’s 100% Taake; it’s phenomenal! The point here is that down the road, many of today’s extreme bands will be forgotten, but people will always remember Taake, Mayhem, and Darkthrone. Et Hav av Avstand shatters preconceptions and transcends the limits of language.
Taake’s Et Hav av Avstand comes out on September 1 via Dark Essence Records. Pre-order your copy here.
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