Since 1999, Taake have been releasing "True Norwegian Black Metal" every three years, never once deviating from schedule. With Stridens Hus having dropped in 2014, it was no surprise when group auteur, Hoest, announced the release of Kong Vinter (King Winter), the artist's seventh full-length studio album, for 2017; fans could anticipate a familiar approach to classic black metal, a comfortable mainstay that Taake have provided in light of black metal's recent, and far more contemporary, renaissance.
Consistent with Taake's past catalogue, Kong Vinter follows a linear structure. The average track runs over seven minutes, and you're not likely to find a single refrain throughout. On past albums, this unconventional arrangement of passages created a hypnotic effect, spellbinding listeners until the album's end. Unfortunately, this time around the effect is boring, uninspired and mind-numbingly dull. The unconventional has been rendered conventional, and Hoest's bag of tricks seems to have emptied.
Since 2011's Noregs Vaapen, Taake have developed somewhat of a reputation for infusing classic black metal with elements that seemingly could never belong: banjo solos, chorus effects pulled straight from the '80s, anthemic riffs, and a whole lot of rock n' roll influence. Taake's approach to a very concrete genre was novel, and it helped them gain popularity amongst all fans of black metal at a time when the genre's most committed purists rejected the contemporary progression.
Most of Kong Vinter's 51-minute runtime is spent awaiting these alternative passages that never come. The black metal we are instead given, while still familiar and well-executed, is far too run-of-the-mill to find compelling — especially when past releases have provided so much more. Out of loyalty, fandom and a hope that fades with every passing song, you'll listen to this entire album in search for more. But you won't find it. (Dark Essence Records)