Taake’s Unmistakable Sound of Norwegian Black Metal in ‘Et Hav av Avstand’

Alex de Borba

Alex de Borba

Taake, a cornerstone in the worldwide heavy metal scene, emerged from the foggy landscapes of Norway and has since then played a pivotal role in shaping the black metal genre since its birth in 1993. The name “Taake,” which translates to “fog” in English, perfectly encapsulates the band’s mysterious aura and the atmospheric depth of its music. The story of Taake is a riveting saga, filled with elements of controversy, innovation, and an unwavering dedication to the genre’s core principles.

The birthplace of Taake is the scenic city of Bergen, Norway, where Ulvhedin Høst, the creative force and the only permanent member of the band, began this musical expedition. Initially known as Thule, the band adopted the name Taake in 1995, a change that more accurately reflected the atmospheric essence of its music. The early years of Taake were marked by a raw and pure black metal sound, deeply influenced by the pioneering Norwegian black metal scene. The band’s first demo, ‘Manndaudsvinter,’ released in 1995, was a testament to Taake’s commitment to creating raw, atmospheric black metal, a stylistic choice that would become a defining characteristic of their musical identity.

The musical odyssey of Taake officially began with the release of their debut album, ‘Nattestid Ser Porten Vid,’ on December 7th, 1999, under the banner of Wounded Love Records. This seminal work marked a significant milestone in the black metal genre, with its raw sonic textures, atmospheric elements, and lyrics steeped in traditional Norwegian vernacular. The album garnered positive critical acclaim for its innovative approach to black metal, thereby setting a high benchmark for Taake’s future musical endeavors.

The band’s second album, ‘Over Bjoergvin Graater Himmerik,’ was released on March 25th, 2002, by Wounded Love Records. This musical offering saw Taake delving deeper into the realm of atmospheric black metal, with a heightened emphasis on melodic elements. The album was met with a warm reception, with critics lauding its harmonious blend of traditional and experimental elements.

The release of ‘Hordalands Doedskvad’ on February 28th, 2005, under the aegis of Dark Essence Records, signaled a turning point in Taake’s musical trajectory. The album showcased a more refined and polished sound, seamlessly incorporating elements of folk and traditional Norwegian music. The album was met with critical acclaim for its musical maturity and innovative compositions, thereby cementing Taake’s position in the black metal scene.

The eponymous album ‘Taake,’ released on October 20th, 2008, by Dark Essence Records, witnessed the band further honing its sound. The album was lauded for its intricate guitar work and atmospheric soundscapes, with critics acknowledging the band’s continued evolution while staying true to its black metal roots.

‘Noregs Vaapen,’ unveiled on September 19th, 2011, by Karisma Records in collaboration with Candlelight Record for the United States of America, represented a bold leap forward for Taake. The album ventured into the territory of rock and roll, a departure from the band’s previous releases. Despite this stylistic shift, the album was well-received, with critics praising its innovative approach to black metal.

The albums ‘Stridens Hus,’ released on December 8th, 2014, and ‘Kong Vinter,’ released on November 24th, 2017, both under the banner of Dark Essence Records, continued Taake’s tradition of innovation. Both albums were praised for their atmospheric soundscapes and intricate compositions, showcasing the band’s continued evolution.

The eighth full-length studio album from Taake, ‘Et Hav av Avstand,’ consists of four songs clocking in at 42 minutes, displaying some of the finest songwriting yet from this epic one-man band. Fierce, but melancholy, vigorously old-school but also progressive.

Retaining that unfiltered sense of unique rawness that is synonymous with Hoest’s charismatic sound and musical identity, Taake still manages to stay relevant and at the forefront of the genre. Hoest, who plays every instrument on the album, has ensured that the album is imbued with the unique Taake sound whilst at the same time developing it further. This is unmistakably Taake, and as always, an intense work that surprises and enthralls. The album will be released on September 1st, 2023, via Dark Essence Records.

The journey of Taake has not been without its share of controversy. The band has faced accusations of promoting far-right ideologies, a claim that Høst has consistently and vehemently denied. Despite these controversies, the influence of Taake on the black metal genre is irrefutable. The band’s unique amalgamation of traditional and experimental elements has served as a source of inspiration for countless other bands and has played a pivotal role in shaping the genre’s evolution.

Promoters have abruptly cancelled a planned tour of Australia by Taake, which has been accused of far-right and anti-Islamic sympathies. In a brief statement posted on Facebook, the promoters Southern Extremeties said the tour had been cancelled “for reasons beyond our control.”

The original venue for the Sydney leg of the tour, University of Sydney’s Manning Bar, was the first to pull out of the shows following pushback from students in December. The Southern Funeral tour was also due to take in Brisbane’s Woolly Mammoth, Melbourne’s Max Watts and a replacement venue in Sydney, Metro Social. Shortly before the cancellation of the tour, the scheduled venue in Adelaide, Enigma Bar, announced it would no longer be hosting the band.

The group was billed to be supported by the North American-based band Akhlys, whose career has also been marred with allegations of associations with far-right ideology. In 2018 Taake had to cancel their North American tour after an online campaign highlighting previous incidents, including a 2007 performance in the German city of Essen in which Hoest appeared with a swastika painted on his chest.

Hoest denied he sympathised with nazism, but in a statement labelled the owner of the Essen venue an Untermensch (subhuman), a term deployed by the Nazis in relation to Jews, Slavs and others they considered non-Aryan. Following the cancellation of the North American tour, Taake released a statement blaming “McCarthy witch hunts” and “illegal activities of Antifa and its supporters” for applying pressure on venues and promoters.

The statement said: “We have explained on many, many occasions, the history behind what caused the problems… but just for the sake of clarity Taake is not now, has never been, and never will be a Nazi band.”

The antifascist research group White Rose Society noted that Hoest had also performed on a song called ‘Jew Killer’ by the band The Meads of Asphodel, on their album ‘The Murder of Jesus the Jew.’ He has also been credited as guitarist on a song titled ‘Sieg Hail Satan’ by a different band.

The song ‘Orkan’ on Taake’s own 2011 album ‘Noregs Vaapen’ (‘Norway’s Weapon’), includes the lyrics “To hell with Muhammad and Muhammadans”. The album was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy in 2012.

In 2013, while performing in Scotland, Hoest donned an Iron Cross above a t-shirt displaying anti-Islamic imagery. In 2020, the organisers of the Glasgow metal festival Darkness Guides Us opted to host the scheduled performance by Taake at a “secret location” in an attempt to quell any potential protest.

Beyond its musical controversies, Taake’s historical significance lies in its prominent role in the Norwegian black metal scene, a subculture known for its extreme music and controversial incidents. Taake’s music, with its raw sound and atmospheric elements, has been a reflection of this subculture, often drawing upon themes of Norwegian folklore and mythology. The band’s commitment to singing in Norwegian has also been a testament to its dedication to its cultural roots.

Moreover, Taake’s music has often been a subject of academic interest, with scholars examining its cultural and sociological implications. The band’s exploration of Norwegian identity through its music has been a topic of numerous academic discussions, further underscoring its cultural significance.

The journey of Taake and its discography is a testament to the band’s unwavering commitment to its music and its genre. Despite the controversies and challenges that have marked its journey, the band has remained a significant figure in the black metal scene, continually pushing the genre’s boundaries while staying true to its roots.

Taake’s music, marked by its atmospheric soundscapes and innovative compositions, continues to inspire and influence, cementing its place in the annals of black metal history. From their debut album to their most recent releases, Taake has consistently evolved their sound while staying true to their roots, earning them a significant place in the annals of black metal history.

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