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Now a cornerstone of Finnish black metal whose members past and present can draw connections to other bands in the scene such as Satanic Warmaster, Behexen, Baptism and more, Horna established themselves as a strong act in a country whose black metal scene was more or less monopolized by Beherit and Impaled Nazarene. With Imp Naz moving more toward a cleaner, somewhat more mainstream sound and Beherit falling off the grid entirely, Horna didn't so much have the black metal torch passed to them; more they took it for their own after having it dropped. After a strong demo-album in the form of Hiidentorni, this bandreleased their shorter debut full-length Kohti yhdeksän nousua.
Horna's heart and soul is its guitar player Shatraug; and despite the play style and sound on each Horna album being unique, the one constant trait is the use of catchy hookish riffs that work without sacrificing the evilness of the music. This trait would be picked up by other Finnish black metal bands and help the scene set itself apart from the more straightforward grimness of the Norwegian scene. As such, the riffs here on Kohti yhdeksän nousua are hard hitting and relentless and still have this catchy melody to them. The biggest two examples are the main riff of the album's thrashy opener "Örkkivuorilta" and the opening riff of "Imperial Devastation". With six actual songs plus an outro, this album varies its tempo quite evenly with its fast paced highlights with the more mid-paced "Sword of Darkness" and the slower pseudo-ending "Sormus ja silmä". The latter track also has a not so hidden bonus after it fades out as a rerecorded version of "Kun Lyömme Jumalan Kodin Liekkeihin", one of the best songs from Hiidentorni, fades in to finish the album with a bang.
This band has gone through a number of vocalists, but their first was Werwolf who would soon after start making a name of his own in his solo project Satanic Warmaster. He still remains my favorite Horna vocalist. His delivery here on Kohti... is just as grim sounding as his later solo material with his shrill shrieks. His strongest moment is actually right at the beginning of the album with his opening shout "Kristityn kuoleman myrsky!" followed by a series of black metal howls. Not entirely special, but still badass in its own right. Plus there is a bit of clean singing in "White Aura Buried in Ashes" and spoken word in the album's outro provided by guest vocalist Henri Kuittinen that add a good bit of effective grimness to the music.
This album is short, shorter than Gorgoroth's Pentagram when you consider the final three minutes are outro material. But there's so much varied quality material here that it's just long enough to leave an impact. Kohti yhdeksän nousua tends to be forgotten with the rest of the band's early material in favor of the later material with Corvus on vocals, but honestly it's not an album you want to skip if you're checking this band out.
This album, in effect, is a journey to the abyss and back again. The album starts off with 'Orkkivuorilta' which contains a chilling and, to say the least, exciting 20-second intro of basically just wind. Then you're thrown into the belly of the beast; perfectly shrieked vocals and expert execution of simple riffs create the optimum atmosphere that makes you want to bang your head. 'Orkkivuorilta' changed speed from slower sections to slightly faster than to oblivion and in my opinion if you can do this without making the song extremely boring then it's a success. I've only seen a few bands pull this off; Horna, Tsjuder and Nargaroth; and when you compare it to the likes of Satyricon who are said masters of the genre but failed to keep 'Dominions of Satyricon' alive passed the minute mark, it just proves that Horna are clearly underrated. No other band has had so many consistent releases back to back than Horna and they are the true masters of black metal!
'Imperial Devastation' is very 'Desert Northern Hell' with Horna's edge which makes it epic within the first half-minute. A good strong follow-up to the best bm song of all time and not much else could have followed it in such grace. Through this song alone you can see that the album isn't just a bunch of beats and riffs thrown together with a few shrieks here and there to attempt at fame (like Mayhem's Deathcrush - absolute piss), but the band have clearly spent many a diadem perfecting every second of this album, so that each track flows perfectly from one to the next, which it does.
'Sormus Ja Silmä' is an outright epic and shows 1349 how to create a 13 minute track without it losing interest in the first couple of minutes. The opening riff is pure class and for once, you can hear a bass in a black metal song! PRAISE HORNA FOR THE WONDERFUL BASS! At around 5:30 the track changes into faster beats and Watain-like vocals and when 7:47 hits you know the track is worth 5 stars on your iTunes. Then comes the outro of the song and I’m suddenly thinking of clear influences from Satyricon's 'I En Svart Kiste' and Nargaroth's Introduction on 'Herbstleyd'. The classic ending of some weird man talking in a weird voice with weird poofy music is here, but yet again like 'I En Svart Kiste'. I like it.
Not a perfect release but for a first full-length? Fucking immense. The song 'Örkkivuorilta' alone made Horna's name stand out in my book and this album is a must have for anyone who is into raw black metal perfection! Download it/buy it... I don't care as long as you get it!
Recommended Tracks: 'Örkkivuorilta', 'Imperial Devastation' and 'Sormus Ja Silmä'.
My only complaint about this album is the small amount of tracks and the tiny length, otherwise it's pretty great. I was going to rate this 85/100 but I’m going to add more just for the sheer perfection of the first two tracks.
Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua is the first official full-length from Finland's black metal horde, Horna. It was released in 1998 by Solistitium Records, limited to 1500 copies. At this point in their development, the band had only existed for a few years. Enough time had passed that they were skilled as musicians, but the songwriting was not very distinctive. It would take some time before Shatraug created the signature style that he was later known for.
Musically, the Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90s seems to have been the primary influence, as opposed to Finnish bands like Beherit, Archgoat or Impaled Nazarene. All of the instruments are quite clear, compared to those whose style they were attempting to emulate. After a brief intro, "Örkkivuorilta" erupts from the depths of hell with aggressive riffs and vicious vocals. The guitars remind of Satyricon's Nemesis Divina album. The more intense thrash bits fade away near the middle to allow a haunting melody to take hold, before returning to end the song in rather violent fashion. "Imperial Devastation" moves between mid-paced tremolo melodies and a riff that calls to mind something from "Thorns of Crimson Death" from Dissection. The middle of the song speeds up, with vocals that are overdubbed with high and low, with riffs that are reminiscent of Dark Funeral.
It must be said that while Horna certainly wore their influences on their sleeve, so to say, the songs are very well-constructed. "White Aura Buried in Ashes" displays the band's skill in arrangement, moving from intense, fast-paced riffs and hellish vocals to a rather strange section that produces somewhat of a haunting effect. Around the 3:40 mark, the tempo changes and a clean voice emerges, similar to Enslved's "I Lenker til Ragnarok", producing an absolutely haunting effect, accentuated by the guitar riff and some faint keyboard in the background. The riff hints at the style Shatraug would later build upon. That said, "Sword of Darkness" and "Sormus ja Silmä" just bleed out the name Gorgoroth in the Infernus-like tremolo melodies that are found in each, and one cannot deny the similarities between the latter and "Sorg" from Antichrist. Nazgul's vocal style is not far off from that of Hat or Pest, so it suits the music even moreso. Regarding these songs, the voice is much dryer and more strained than usual which adds to the darker atmosphere. For some reason, there is a re-recorded version of "Kun lyömme Jumalan kodin liekkeihin" from Hiidentorni that fades in from the latter and is unlisted.
Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua is a very solid record and shows more overall consistency than Horna's prior output. Despite a lack of originality, the songwriting is very cohesive an there are a lot of memorable moments to be found. By 1998, most of the band's musical idols in Norway had fallen, so it was certainly up to someone to pick up the torch and to keep it burning. In that respect, Horna did a very good job with their debut album and would go on to create some immensely dark recordings throughout the years. If you ever run across this, be sure to pick it up. It will definitely appeal to those with a taste for mid-90's black metal.
Ah Finland, what would the black metal scene be without it?!
There are few bands who’s managed to keep such an impressing amount of quality throughout there discography as Horna. Their first release is not an exception! I’m not sure if there’s a special theme on this album or not, but the title of the album refers to the nine wraiths from “The lord of the Rings”.
Since I had not listened to anything from this release before, I was satisfying to find out that it had a raw but clear production (It’s clear that Horna has never been amongst the numerous amateur bands out there). Their first release reminds me of their second “Haudankylmyyden Mailla”, not only by production but by the music as well. Since the two albums were released within a short period of time I don’t really find that to be surprising.
The music is black metal in every way. The guitars vary between an aggressive approach and melancholic melodies, the bas is always present in the background. Kohti yhdeksän nousua also features the original Horna line-up which means Nazgul is the one who’s doing the vocals. Nazgul’s vocals seem to have been at its top during this time and they are very distinguishable through out the album. I don’t really have any specific comment on the drums since they didn’t impress on me that much. It’s the usual black metal drumming.
Most of the songs on the album are above average, though the last song before the outro tend to get a bit dull during the slower parts. The album reaches its climax when a choir enters on the song “White Aura Buried in ashes”, that’s my opinion.
This is worth adding to your collection if you want a complete Horna discography, plus you get a solid black metal release.