The consensus almost everywhere seems to be that this is not only the best Taake record, according to Best Black Metal Albums, it’s in the top 5 of all time (number 2 at the time of this writing). While I doubt many people here would agree with the latter, the reviews on this site still herald this as Hoest’s crowning achievement. I tend to disagree, but that doesn't make it any less of a great album.
Don’t get me wrong. I like this album. There are some strong moments here for sure. Take the opening track for instance. From the first triumphant-sounding guitar lines to the “HEY! HEY!” I dig it. Everything about this track is awesome. It’s got that bittersweet folky sound akin to the first Borknagar albums. And rather than simply engage in an imitation, Taake changes pace several times to showcase their own signature touches on the genre from the relentless, bouncing tremolos to the schizophrenic vocals. This is progressive black metal at its finest. The transitions are smooth, and it feels like a true classical arrangement rather than a riff salad.
Track 3 is my other personal favorite. Featuring the dreariest, trudging tremolos leading into a blastbeat march to war, it’s a gem. And the vocals are just so righteous. I have no idea what Hoest is saying, but if we were on the battlefield, I’d just be like “Fuck yeah! What he said!” Again, there are plenty of pace changes, and they all work so well together. The break for the bass solo leading into that ominous final riff gets me going.
But for every triumph, there are a few missteps. For instance, track two features a riff disturbingly similar to the “Imperial March” riff from “Pure Holocaust,” something I didn’t care for to begin with. The transitions also don’t work as well on the other tracks. Riffs bump into each other clumsily and are less memorable. Tracks 5 and 6 in particular just feel aimless and dull. I wouldn’t call them bad; just uninteresting. On an album with only 7 tracks, even 2 or 3 tracks going wrong significantly harms to overall listening experience. The closing track is better, but just can’t stand up against the closers of Nattestid or Noregs. I will say I enjoy the strange little rock riff that is used throughout though.
Comparing this album to the rest of the trilogy, there is far less emphasis on cohesion. Personally, if you are looking for the best Taake album, I’d start from the beginning with Nattestid. It’s so hipster to say that, but in this case it’s true. Beyond that, I would rank them thusly: Nattestid, Noregs Vaapen (heresy, I know), Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik, Hordalands Doedskvad, Taake, Stridens Hus. That’s just my personal opinion, but I feel my top choices are a bit more consistent and I find myself enjoying nearly every track pretty equally.
Overall, this is not some monumental argument I am making. I fully admit to splitting hairs considering I am still ranking this with an 80%. I just took a look at all of the 90%+ reviews and felt there was room for some sort of counterpoint here. I still highly recommend listening to this album, but not with disregard to those that come before or Noregs. Check them all out today.