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Released in October 2002, Risti Ja Ruoska was the first official post-Nazgul recording and served as a means to get the band back on track and to test out Horna's new vocalist, Corvus. This effort does well to bridge the first and second periods of the band's existence. Obviously, there was never a truly drastic change, as certain elements have always remained, and yet the character of Horna underwent some sort of transformation after Sudentaival. As the band had become kind of predictable and the sound quality was getting ever closer to the realm where such useless bands as Marduk and Dark Funeral were dwelling, Shatraug took a rather sharp turn and returned to the bloody and filthy roots of Horna, which were firmly entrenched in the old school black metal sound of the late '80s and early '90s.
This E.P. features only two songs, yet it manages to speak volumes. For starters, Corvus establishes himself as a very distinctive voice for the band, as opposed to just someone to fill the shoes of his predecessor. In some ways, he keeps to the higher-pitched territory favoured by Nazgul, yet his voice is much more strained and miserable-sounding. This is more evident on the title track. He seems to be completely possessed by some horrible anguish that can hardly be contained, adding something quite needed to the ever-more-mournful guitar melodies unleashed by Shatraug. In truth, it can be said that this unholy union took place at the perfect moment. Just as Horna's creator was truly finding his voice as a composer, he was joined by a man whose literal voice suited that in a way that Nazgul simply could not. The music is sombre and features the same influences as before, yet sounds somewhat more unique than certain older releases. In a sense, this E.P. represents a band that has regressed and become even more primitive. The necro production job accentuates this feeling, dimly illuminating these musical ideas in a gloomy manner.
For those that tend to stick to the full-length releases of a band and to ignore everything else, as is easy to do with a band like Horna, that would be a dreadful mistake in this case. Risti Ja Ruoska may be short, yet this will satisfy all those that seek truly grim and hateful black metal. The fact that there are only two songs only leaves you wanting more, which is a good thing. As Shatraug progressed with Sargeist and Horna, the atmosphere was to become blacker than darkness, something that really began to take shape on this E.P. Seek this out, by all means, and let the raw and miserable black metal wash over you like the rotten blood of an ancient sacrifice long forgotten.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com