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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.