Review Summary: Rock and fucking roll!? Hey…wait a sec…
If the artwork for every black metal album ever conceived was a dark-robed figure walking through a snow-covered forest, I'd be completely ok with it. On a side note, it doesn't hurt when the artist plays some of the coldest Norwegian black metal currently available. Taake - the conduit for longtime member “Hoest’s” pain and despair - has remained true its ancestral roots since the formation of the band in the ‘90s. Desolate, frozen landscapes of Bergen are painted with ease through tortured shrieks and guitars that are sinisterly dark in tone; a sound that’s as potent as ever on Kong Vinter
(which translates to King Winter, pretty badass, eh").
Yet, despite replicating a frost-bitten December throughout its entirety, Kong Vinter
isn’t without some devilishly playful experimentation – most notably in some of the album’s more groove-oriented cuts. Lead single “Inntrenger” shows this off early on, as the muddy guitars are abruptly traded for unexpectedly melodic riffing that has rock and roll written all over it. These detours could be distracting, but Hoest has a special knack for keeping his footing grounded through a massive range of guitar-driven dynamics. The opening track, “Sverdets Vei” is top-notch Taake: a condensed offering that crams these opposing sounds into an aggressive, but vibrantly bright number. It’s the way Hoest combines these time-trusted black metal blueprints with his flashy guitar-work that makes Taake so uniquely accessible.
For an album named after the dead cold of winter, Kong Vinter
is oddly varied. Instead of a crushing snow storm, it plays out more like a sporadically fierce flurry – giving the listener a chance to take in a landscape veiled in fog beneath their feet. It never really slows down or goes into ballad territory, but the countless key changes and mood shifts make it feel less suffocating at times. Admittedly, whether this is a good thing comes down to personal preference, but Hoest’s choice to not simply bury us with an unwavering avalanche of sound throughout Kong Vinter
sets it apart from the beaten path. This is still second wave black metal worship at its core, but it never limits itself - as Hoest constantly challenges himself instrumentally.
Starting off with such strong promise, Kong Vinter
seems to lose some punch towards its tail-end, but it redeems itself. Just when you think you have the album figured out, it concludes with one of Taake’s most ambitious tracks: an 11-minute tour de force of instrumentation that ditches Hoest’s cavernous vocals for a whirlwind of layered guitars and twisted bass. Playing all the instruments himself, the album’s increased momentum comes roaring forward in one final blow of passionate musicianship. It’s simply monolithic, and a fine representation of Kong Vinter
as a whole. To honor the second wave black metal aesthetic, while also continuing to push the envelope is an admirable and rare feat. With a potent mixture of tremolo riffing and a touch of oldschool rock music, it’s the first wintry mix of the season: it just might not be in the form you were expecting.