Review Summary: The finest of materials, sewn together in the poorest fashion.
For all its stylistic diversity, atmosphere has always been paramount in black metal. Whether enveloping you in wintry fury, conjuring images of rolling hills and mythical heroes, or simply assaulting your eardrums with the purest evil the artist is capable of producing - the feelings invoked linger long after the album has ceased playing, and any hooks or melodies have faded from memory. The key to success lies with consistency, a concept Taake's frontman (Hoest) should be well acquainted with given the atmospheric brilliance of his earlier works. The fact that this is the first album since 2005 to feature input from his live band gives rise to hope of a return to form, and yet, Stridens Hus
ultimately rests as a continuation on what was found in the disappointing Noregs Vaapen
. Where the latter had individually delicious, yet clashing flavours being forced together; here we find ingredients that could blend perfectly becoming segregated, forming a hodgepodge far weaker than the sum of its parts. It’s a step in the right direction, but at the end of the day, great riffs don’t make great albums.
It really is a shame, because there’s something brilliant hidden away here. It sounds as though Taake constructed a solid (albeit short) slab of black metal, and chose to flesh it out to a more respectable length with these disparate elements that destroy the flow and atmosphere. The fierce opener ‘Gamle Norig’ is a deceiving exception, maintaining an icy assault for its full duration, with vicious guitars raging and Hoest’s traditional snarl building towards a malicious blackened-thrash climax. However from this point onwards, we see a peppering of rock and roll riffs, bluesy guitar solos and uplifting melodies that are timed poorly enough to believe this was the debut album from an uncertain composer. These artists are still perfectly capable of painting a vivid portrait of frozen tundras for you to lose yourself in, but strangely opt to include a welcoming log cabin, complete with a fire and a hot meal as a respite from the cold. It forgoes the entire purpose of such an album; one constructed around unrelenting riffing and a pervasive evil aesthetic. While the mental images you form won’t have an offender as gross as the local hillbilly square-dancing to the bluegrass found in their previous release, there are myriads of mismatched elements in this patchwork product that hold it back from being the true return to form we had all hoped for.
There is still the grimy, raw production that defines a certain proportion of the black metal world. The bleak guitar tones are here, the barebones of a suffocating atmosphere are present - but Hoest has developed an unquenchable thirst for variation and refuses to sit still. This constant shifting of gears prevents the mood from setting in; an admirable quality given the right framework, but a poor choice for this particular strain of the infamous genre. Repetition lends itself to stagnation, but to an extent, it's necessary
. It's important to set a consistent pace at times, or else you run the risk of making a stylistic mess that seems indecisive, rather than insatiable in its hunt for diversity. Whatever the case may be, the end product has too much time spent writing riffs without enough focus on creating a coherent album; a painfully average black metal release from a man capable of so much more.