One man Norse Black Metal project Taake his an entity that has remained fairly consistent in its own sound. Helmed by founding member Hoest (Deathcult, ex-Ragnarok), this solo act has turned out a good amount of highly rated releases ever since changing its name from Thule back in 1995. The discography consists largely of EPs and the random compilation, only having five full-lengths to its name until recently. Stridens hus is the sixth instalment in this traditional Norwegian expression of the style, and is the one that has received the most variety in reception from fans and critics alike. But is this really that odd a release, or it just general wear and tear from sticking so close to the second wave roots for so long?

As you would expect, Stridens hus isn't the richest or most digital sounding album. The focus is again placed on that sharpened buzz the country made famous within the Black Metal style, while keeping a somewhat analog quality to the music that leaves it a little on the thin side. Even though the bass isn't that well represented in the mix overall, the instrument itself can still be heard clearly with a mild hum that plays more of a vital role with the drums and bass kicks during faster tracks like "Vinger". There are some segments that incorporate a little more technicality, such as the introduction, allowing the twang of the bass guitar to shine through, while the more aggressive main verses and chorus find a slightly deeper presence to support the mixed grooves and hooks utilized in the rather oppressive piece.

While the instruments themselves may not be tuned that low, there's no denying the atmospheres help cast a similar shadow across the sharpened material. "Gamle Norig" has a burdening environment that is felt immediately in the rather depressing riffs and simpler drum patterns played. The chorus, however, takes on more of a glorious stance, bringing a little light to the fold that the solid guitars approaching the four minute mark really take advantage of to grab the listener with some additional energy, not to mention a brief segment of existentialism before wrapping concluding with a thrashier disposition. There's also the mixture of melancholy and joy called "En Sang til Sand om Ildebrann". When the music intends to take on a darker tone, you can easily sense the mourning that surrounds the music, though much of it actually sounds a bit on the fun side thanks to the less bleak rhythms created using lighter notes and distortions. It's an interesting change of pace, but not the most surprising.

"Orm" doesn't quite fit the bill of your standard Taake composition, leaving behind the sharpened blades for cleaner sixties Rock riffs, especially in the solid guitar solo. There's still a decent amount of Black Metal to be found as well, such as approaching the half way point where the sunlight fades and dusk slowly creeps in with the aid of haunting chants in the background. There's also the song "Stank", though the deviations aren't quite as extensive. The main verses stick to using the same chord, relying largely on the drums and the random slight change from time to time to keep it alive. Outside these passages, there is a saddened tone thanks to the louder bass notes, but also some two-step drums as you approach the three minute mark that changes over to a brief Punk influence, and then a hint of Rockabilly. Even the conclusion seems more Folk oriented with some Classical input that sounds more like the kind of slower music royalty would have at a social gathering in the medieval days.

Stridens hus isn't your traditional Norwegian Black Metal or Taake album. Instead of sticking to the roots of early second wave pioneers like the previous efforts, this one gets a little more adventurous by throwing in some of the first wave genre influences like Thrash Metal, Rock, as well as a little Punk. Even the atmospheres try something new, presenting songs or passages that jump between gloomy and bright. Stridens hus stands as a different kind of beast to the band's discography, and its one that many die-hard fans may not be so willing to accept with how much it can deviate from the established template. However, those willing to enter this release with an open mind will find some well executed variety that gives Taake some additional range without really forsaking what makes this solo outfit so widely respected.

Review originally composed for Apoch's Metal Review.