Noregs Vaapen is an artistic conundrum. On the one hand it is a towering confluence of masterful riffs and composition, immensely satisfying in its synthesis of the sinister and celebratory. On the other hand, Taake mastermind Hoest attempts to ply a particular cognitive dissonance. Lyrically, Noregs Vaapen is a paean to cult Norwegian nationalism, hailing the virtues of Pagan progenitors while worshiping the northern sky, excoriating religion and doffing its cap to Satan. If you're comfortable with black metal's legacy, this should offer very little in the way of shock value. Noregs Vaapen, however, features more than a few moments of rock-infused euphoria, transmitting party vibes to rival even countrymen Kvelertak. If you're into reading (and translating) lyrics, Hoest's vicious lyrical screeds during these festive passages can induce actual discomfort. These same musical moments, however, make Noregs Vaapen a transcendent experience.
Taake infuse black metal's fiber with threads of traditional metal and punk. While this is certainly not a novel approach, Taake have executed the maneuver with precision and skill. The metal at hand is immediately appealing, eschewing any sense of monotony for diverse time signatures and consistently coherent riffing. Layered swarms of tremolo picked pestilence produce a full and enticing sound. Memorable lead guitar flourishes add appealing accents that lodge in your skull. Resonant melodic passages break out repeatedly, ensuring that your attention doesn't wander.
When Noregs Vaapen rocks out, the results are utterly convincing. Grotesque grooves transmit an intense need to move. Bastardized, bluesy solos have me reaching repeatedly for the air guitar. The tremendous, authentic and absurd banjo solo in “Myr” can't go without mention; it's a piercing moment of jubilant nihilism.
Taake don't blaze a new trail; they simply obliterate the competition. Noregs Vaapen offers a satiating balance of scathing impiety, harmonic luminosity and animalistic ardor. The album's consistent quality places it amongst the year's elite black metal efforts. If you can abide Hoest's sordid lyrical choler, you're going to want to own this album.
Noregs Vaapen is out now on Candlelight Records.
You can stream the entire album over here.