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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