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There are albums that one has to check out. It’s not that they’re necessarily relevant for many, but for some reason, one wouldn’t be able to sleep calm knowing that has skipped something that makes you curious. That happens to me at least, and that’s the reason why I’m writing this now.
Horna are a black metal Finnish act, and if not considered one of the classic bands of the Scandinavian wave of bands playing such genre back in the early 90’s, they are right in the outskirts of that category. Me, I’ve listened to some of their work along the years —they’ve released about 30 demos, splits and shit— so I can say that I’m familiar with what they do. The problem lies right there actually, if there’s a problem at all.
I certainly had the time of my life listening to the truly evil sound in “Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa” —whatever that means, Google translator is for fags— and I enjoyed it exactly for the same goddamn reasons that I’ve enjoyed every single work by these guys that I’ve had the chance to check out: cold riffs and melodies, raw distortion, wicked drumming and truly malevolent vocals all creating that cold raw and disturbing atmosphere that I’m so addicted to.
I know, I know: You’ve read the above description a million times before, always about black metal bands that stick to that old Norwegian sound, uh? You’re so right! So, what’s the point of listening to this? Well, not because it has become a cliché I have become myself unable to enjoy it, you know. Yes, there’s a bunch of albums that one could listen to having pretty much the same effect, and yes, it’s also possible that there are better releases of this kind —although, that’s always arguable—. And still, how many bands have been around playing and perfecting such sound for nearly two decades now? In my book, twenty years do validate a lot of what a band does.
Now, how perfect can this kind of metal be? Much of its beauty lies precisely on its ugliness. Horna’s latest is raw, noisy and disturbing, and it definitely feels anachronistic. This is not an attempt to revolutionize black metal in any way, au contraire, it is all about Horna doing their thing. And I do like it. At the same time, you can put a check mark in every must for a release of this type, and no, that doesn’t necessarily means that they are emulating them. This is not one of those records…
Proof of how well this album is made is the fact that playing a most primitive kind of black metal, Horna managed to make 48 minutes pass so fast, that the end actually got me by surprise. Also, there IS real coherence amongst themes, riffs, solos and leif motifs, and for once —and without spoiling the experience with clean production— you can actually listen to the bass lines. That always helps for the feeling of atmosphere to be complete.
Not trying to innovate anything, and still, Horna do their thing and they do it right. In a way that’s refreshing in a world where pointless sophistication has fucked up almost every sub-genre in metal. Not that it is going to become a classic, but I would recommend this to any black metal fan. I’m sure they’ll understand.
—Originally written for www.globaldomination.se
True black metal will not die, because there are a lot of groups that always try to produce and create more awesome black metal music nowadays, one of these professional groups is the Finnish band Horna. This band has always presented real and grim blackened masterpieces to the metal scene, and this year the band provided the scene with their 8th full-length album "Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa" that doesn't sound different than the previous ones, the same brutal message and the exact spirit of music are presented in here.
Ten abyssal tracks full of hate and mischievous sentiment with Finnish lyrics are caving this record, the old school black metal riffing is one of the best features here, especially with the angry shouting vocals that add a lot of hate and irritation to the tracks. Many slow-paced guitar riffs with calm tempo exist in this record too, but on the other hand there are many grinding and insane fast guitar riffs with blasting drums, and such moments will blow your speakers from time to time while listening to the album, these tempo variations are really interesting and they make every track a new journey through the album. The fans of Sargeist, Behexen, and Baptism are into this type of angry black metal sound, and they will also love this record that has been released by the label "World Terror Committee", because the elements of the dusty old school black metal sound and the cold production are making every moment enjoyable.
The artwork describes the tracks of this album with black and white colors and a burning temple. Antti Saukkonen, the designer of the artwork who has also designed the artwork of the latest Alghazanth's album "Vinum Intus", has been selected to sum all the flooding riffs of this album and translate them into a piece of art. The tracks "Ota Omaksesi Luoksesi" and "Kärsimyksin Vuoltu Hänen Valittuna Äänenään" are my favorite tracks in this record, because the touches of extremism and earnestness are merged with the melodic tremolo Pickings of the lead guitar, creating a void of ancient spiritual sight in front of the ears of the listeners. The frozen beats of the drums are covering the fragile sound of the bass, making the crashes and the high-hat hits louder than anything else sometimes.
If you're a loyal black metal and you're searching for a grim black metal release that proves that true black metal is not dead, then you have to pick your own copy of this release now from World Terror Committee and start living this angry-dusty journey of non-stopping black metal mischievous melodies.
Originally written for:
The Tampere black metal scene with bands like Sargeist, Behexen, Horna and Satanic Warmaster has been one of the world’s most vital during the 21st century. Last year Behexen really upped the ante for the entire scene with the monumental ‘Nightside Emanations’. So do Horna pick up the gauntlet thrown and step up for the challenge?
Well, the answer is both yes and no. Except for the Bathory-esque ‘Sotahuuto’ Horna has left me fairly unimpressed in the past. The music on ‘Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa’ (roughly One Step Closer to Satan) however shows the band stepping up a notch. The drumming is tight, the vocals haunted with agony and the production suits this type of black metal very well. Shatraug’s atmospheric riffing is the true standout of this album though giving it a good flow and a, for lack of better words, groove, especially during the slow-tempo parts of this otherwise high-paced album.
What is truly lacking however, and a necessity for this type of black metal to reach the greater glory, is memorable choruses. This causes the songs to somewhat blend in with one another and the songs where the riffs aren’t over the top masterful come off as fillers making the album seem too long. Although, it grows slightly with each listen.
In summary, this is a fairly solid piece of black metal unfortunately lacking excellent choruses. The mood and atmosphere of the music however, shows Horna journeying on an interesting path for the future.
Choice cuts: Kunnia Herralle, Kuninkalle; Kärsimyksin Vuoltu Hänen Valittuna Äänenään; Pala Tai Palvele
Performance: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Production: 8 out of 10
Vocals: 7 out of 10
Songwriting: 5 out of 10
Summary: 6 chalices of 10
Originally written for www.MetalCovenant.com
It has been five years since Finnish black metal outfit Horna has put out a record. EP’s and splits with various new band members, as well as touring, has left little time for a proper release. Finally, they have seen fit to produce another album, and it is an impressive piece of work.
Despite the fact that guitarist Shatraug is the only original member of the band, Askel lähempänä Saatanaa does not deviate from the token sound that Horna is synonymous with. The cultish dissonance that has defined them is thankfully still prevalent. With new vocalist Spellgoth, the sound has evolved only slightly to accommodate his rasping voice. He fits quite well with the band and manages to put his own unique spin on the music without trying to emulate his predecessor, Corvus.
Brilliantly lo-fi, Askel lähempänä Saatanaa seems keen on returning to the black metal roots and does so without compromising the quality of the album. It is mixed so that one is not overwhelmed by a single element, the vocals, drums, and guitar are all perfectly audible and do not overshadow one another. The one flaw in this production is that it ends up focusing heavily on treble and mids, while the bass is essentially ignored. Then again, this is a more traditional black metal album, so it isn’t overly surprising.
This album is intrinsically raw and unforgiving. It starts off with an atmospheric introduction before barreling into fast tremolo picking and Spellgoth’s guttural bellow. The first song, which shares the same title as the album, sets the tone for the listener. There is variation from song to song and each one is distinguishable, but the tone does not change in the least. From the beginning to the end, the album boasts nothing more than the quintessential black metal hostility contained within fast paced riffing. Intermittently, the band slows down for effect and with great success (“Aamutähden Pyhimys”), but these periods are few and far between.
All in all, this release is nothing new. It is not redefining black metal, nor is it introducing any unique elements. However, the continuation of the archetypal sound is not detrimental. The perpetuation of the genre’s pure aggression and chaotic nature with satanic overtones could hardly be considered negative. Horna has, yet again, delivered a true black metal album that does not deviate from the norm but will prove satisfactory to those with a passion for the original sound.
Album highlights: Kuolema Kuoleman Jälkeen, Yhdeksäs Portti, Aamutähden Pyhimys
Since the early 90s, Shatraug’s involvement in black metal has been extremely obvious, with him being in some of Finland’s most prominent black metal bands including Horna, Behexen and Sargeist. Horna in particular over the course of its history has displayed numerous shifts in their musical style, with each release throwing different surprises to their fans. This year sees the band release their eighth full length album Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa, 5 long years after their previous opus.
In keeping with the stylistics of Sanojesi Äärelle, Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa maintains that rather atmospheric aesthetics of Finnish black metal. The introductory track Alku quickly lays down a haunting atmosphere with the disturbing backdrop and a lone piano playing, leaving one feeling as though he were left alone in an abandoned chapel. However, unlike the rather aggressive black metal attack that bands like Sargeist tend to utilise, Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa takes quite a different route as the title track on the album goes to show, with the track being for the most part rather mid-paced with simple riffs and beats, and together with that harsh and cold atmosphere one is reminded of slower material of bands like Satanic Warmaster. Spellgoth’s vocal delivery certainly helps to add some depressive black metal aesthetics over here with his tortured shrieks sounding like desperate pleas.
Music-wise, this being another Shatraug band, it is certainly hard to avoid comparisons to his other bands such as Sargeist. This is most evident in the riffing styles and patterns that are utilised by him, with the constant interplay between more melodic and somewhat melancholic riffs and more aggressive ones on the album like on Kunnia Herralle, Kuninkaalle, all this while backed by the harsh atmosphere in the background. The band’s intention in delivering pure evilness to the listener is also evident in the rather straightforward execution of the instruments, with most of the instrumentation on the album being rather simple, allowing for the listener to really soak in the entire album as a whole rather than attempt to really dissect it like one would on an overly technical album. For instance, Vainaja’s drumming is nothing extremely technical here, yet the alternating between straightforward blasts and more simple beats on slower segments on the album prove extremely effective in captivating the listener.
With excellent albums like Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa, one really wonders where Shatraug manages to have so much inspiration to write releases for his numerous bands, each with their unique sounds.But I for one am not complaining, with Horna‘s Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa easily displaying the draw that Finnish black metal had on me early in my forays into black metal.
Since the release of Sanojesi Äärelle, Horna had been unusually silent. There have been a handful of releases, including a live album and a collection of songs recorded some years earlier, as well as an anniversary E.P. that featured the band's original line-up. Shatraug also took time to work on side projects, such as Sargeist and Mortualia. In the meantime, Corvus left the band to focus on other things. Fans were given their first taste of new vocalist Spellgoth on the Adventus Satanae mini-album. After some delays, in March 2013, Horna finally returned with a new full-length, Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa.
The production is pretty grimy and primitive, which is usually a good thing. In this case, the drums are far too loud in the mix and the guitar melodies are somewhat difficult to follow. The more active the percussion becomes, the less one is able to discern one riff from another. Horna has been going for a rather lo-fi and raw approach for the last decade or so, but this is sometimes hit-and-miss. The sound here isn't on the level of an old Moonblood rehearsal, but it could have been tweaked a bit.
Stylistically, there are no surprises to be found. The band's roots in the early '90s black metal scene are on display, as usual. However, this record does seem to be lacking the eerily haunting riffs that characterized Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne and Sanojesi Äärelle. The songwriting is solid and maintains a consistent feeling throughout, never straying from the pure Black Metal sound that Horna is known for. Unfortunately, the album comes off as a little too safe and predictable. This can be a good thing in some cases. For any other band, this would be a rather good album. Released under the banner of Horna, it seems to be missing something. Spellgoth's vocals don't help, either. He isn't bad at his job, but he relies a bit too much on the random shouts that Nazgul was known for, years earlier. For the most part, he is a capable vocalist, but he doesn't really command your attention in the way that Corvus did. Still, he suits the music well enough. The songwriting is rather straightforward, with a few less meaningful tempo changes than before. There are also less of the catchy riffs that Shatraug is known for, though a few are present. Over the course of the album, the quality of the music seems to improve a bit. Songs like "Ei Aikaa Kyyneleille" and "Kärsimyksin Vuoltu Hänen Valittuna Äänenään" feature some of the first really memorable riffs on the whole record. During the faster parts of the latter track, the tremolo melodies are almost hypnotic and epic, with the drumming seeming to fade into the background like a heavy rain on a metal roof that you gradually come to disregard. "Aamutähden Pyhimys" features a slower section, near the end, that somewhat captures the mournful feeling conveyed by much of the band's output.
All in all, Horna fans have no reason to dislike this, though some may have been expecting a little more monumental after such a long wait. Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa is a solid album, better than any of the full-lengths from the Nazgul era. Judging by the songwriting and production, this sounds like it could have been released in 1993 and is recommended for anyone that is looking for old school black metal with no traces of modern filth. While it is not the type of album that will floor most people on the first listen, it will likely grow on you over time.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com