support Byfrost + Donn The Philosophy
author AP date 14/10/11 venue The Rock, Copenhagen, DEN

As 1349 once again canceled their appearance at the Rock for the second time this year, it was up to Taake, the notorious brainchild of Norwegian black metal enigma Høst, to initiate the autumn season's black metal calendar - which, by the way, bodes a string of extremely interesting and renowned bands ranging from Endstille to Gorgoroth and Vader, all of which will naturally be attended and reviewed by us. How did Taake fare? Read on to find out.

Donn The Philosophy

UK black metal trio Donn the Philosophy do not have much to answer for, given their virtually non-existent reputation, nor many to answer to, given the scarce amount of people that have bothered to show up in time to watch their set. But it takes exactly one song to understand why the bar might seem like a more attractive option, as the nature of the black metal played by the three can hardly be described as innovative, let alone interesting. Heavily reliant on tremolo picking, the songs blend into each other and pass by without much fanfare despite the band's rather theatrical appearance - the two frontmen, one handling guitar and the other bass, are dressed in what looks like surplus Satanic priest outfits from Attila Chisar's costume at Copenhell last summer. The two-pronged vocals alternate between typical shrieks and slightly deeper growls, while the drummer, who is admittedly quite impressive, does his best to add an element of surprise to the mix with some clever, syncopated rhythms and stop-start dynamics. Sadly, however, Donn the Philosophy are extremely boring to watch and listen to, and it certainly does not help that the trio looks like they genuinely could not care less about playing for us tonight.



As such, Byfrost are immediately more refreshing with their personal take on the genre. The band's music is perhaps best referred to as blackened thrash metal distilled from the same influences as Aura Noir, Deströyer 666, Skeletonwitch and Toxic Holocaust. It is sometimes a recipe for disaster when executed without care or variation, but thankfully Byfrost combine the speed of thrash and the atmosphere of black metal with an uncanny knack for aesthetics, diversifying their approach at times with slower brooding tracks in which the thrash influence is reduced to a minimum. It is in these songs that Byfrost are arguably at their best. But even in the less inventive all-out thrash assaults the band avoids being stigmatized as generic through their fantastic presence; the way in which the two vocalists alternate between roaring into the microphone and brandishing their instruments at us at point blank range makes the band look like hardened veterans, and experts on crowd interaction. Even so, however, there is little going on that separates Byfrost from the aforementioned acts, neither musically nor in terms of a performance. This is a solid metal show executed with skill, but it could use some unique flavor in order to stand out from those of other like-minded bands.



I'm probably going against the grain when I say that Taake embodies exactly what black metal is about to me. The music that Høst single-handedly creates under the Norwegian moniker, which translates to fog or mist, is melodic, varied, and most importantly, extremely malevolent. Our photographer for the night, Rasmus Ejlersen, assures me that Taake essentially sounds like Kvelertak on speed and focusing on their black metal instincts, and listening to a song like "Umenneske" (sadly the only song I can identify) certainly supports this observation. Høst himself looks like a sinister ghoul, with corpse paint adorning his face, an upside down cross tattooed across his stomach, white opaque contact lenses in his eyes, and a belt buckle styled into a Norwegian flag warning us that this man is pure evil, in case his three stints in jail for coarse violence didn't convince us.

Fortunately tonight's showing is not controversial to the point where it becomes offensive, as was the case at an infamous concert in Essen, Germany in 2007, for which Høst appeared on stage with a swastika painted across his chest and spat and threw beer bottles at the audience. Instead, it ticks all the right boxes for what constitutes a successful black metal performance through sufficient shock value, an imposing presence, and shrieks that sound like hell itself spat them out, which, looking at Høst, is probably exactly what happened. Indeed, if ever there was a vessel through which Satan might express himself musically, Høst would probably be it, so convinced is this man about his personal views and beliefs.

Taake is not a band that settles for fitting in among the rest of the old Norwegian guard; they very clearly wish to stand out, and from a listener's perspective this is a positive ambition. It means that throughout the band's hour-long set there isn't a moment in which one feels compelled to check Facebook or head over to the bar to grab a beer. Each song brings something fresh and innovative to the palette, and instead of relying on the trusted tremolo-and-blastbeats approach, Taake unleash a wealth of styles and techniques, much in the vein of another black metal band I have grown to like: 1349.

Granted, Høst might not set the stage on fire, but he does manage to conjure an atmosphere of nihilism, acrimony and grandeur with impressive skill. And as icing on the cake, there is the subtle threat of outrage lurking beneath the surface that keeps the audience intrigued at what this persona could possibly come up with. He is, after all, wearing a Norwegian flag as a robe, and from time to time he retreats to the background and stands draped in it with his fists curled, his arms crossed, his head bowed down, and his face obscured by hair, without so much as a hint of movement. It is difficult to describe the unease that such a posture invokes without seeing it yourself, but it quickly becomes a vital pillar in constructing the appropriate atmosphere for a show like this. Along with 1349, Taake are undoubtedly one of the most convincing, dramatic and fearsome black metal bands I have seen live to date.

Photos courtesy of Rasmus Ejlersen

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