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Released through Debemur Morti Produductions in September 2008, Sanojesi Äärelle witnessed Horna returning to their normal style, after the previous year's Bathory tribute had some listeners wondering if the band had made a permanent shift in their sound. Their seventh full-length album is quite an ambitious effort, containing nearly an hour and a half of music. One reason for the sheer length of this record was for Shatraug to clear up a lot of the material that had been written and waiting. This album is also notable for the fact that it features a full line-up, rather than the main core of Shatraug and Corvus, with whatever session musicians they could find.
The first disc is more straightforward, as "Muinaisten Alttarilta" displays. It bursts forth with hellish fury and a morbid feeling that permeates the melodies. The opening tremolo riffs carve through you, making way for the pestilence that soon spreads, courtesy of the slower riffs and the demented vocals spewing from Corvus. Aside from the two main themes, there is another mid-paced riff that has a more upbeat, almost folk-like, vibe and works well to contrast the darker atmosphere conveyed by the rest.
"Verilehto" features riffs that are a bit more primitive, though with added darkness thanks to the presence of open chords that come at the end of each repetition. These are used throughout the song with increasing frequency as it progresses, helping to create a sombre tone that imbues the listener with a sense of unease.
The next song hearkens back to the band's earlier years, in a way. "Mustan Kirkkauden Sarastus" is fast-paced and features a good deal of tremolo riffs, mixed in with mid-paced sections that are not the most memorable. This is a solid track, but not one of the highlights.
"Katseet" possesses a more melancholic vibe, from the opening moments, as a mid-paced riff creeps from an old grave, bringing the stench of death and rot. The songwriting is rather simplistic and minimalist, while maintaining a decent amount of variation and song progression. The slower riffs are contrasted by fast tremolo-picked melodies that offers a Finnish take on a style made famous in Norway, nearly two decades earlier. Horna has done well at incorporating these elements into their music and creating their own identity, which is quite a feat considering the sheer number of bands out there. This song has kind of an epic feeling, thanks to the additional riffs that appear, later on.
"Askeesi" starts with another fast tremolo riff, though the pace slows down and the overall feeling becomes increasingly dark and morbid. While the slower sections seem to be where the band is most comfortable, Shatraug displays a lot of talent for writing the faster riffs. The raw sound of the recording is emphasized by the guitar tone and the overly strained vocal style that Corvus employs. If he had the ability to control his voice and to only scream with such intensity when the song called for it, he would better serve the band.
The title track explodes from the silence, in a manner similar to some of the other songs on here. It is fairly straightforward and maintains a fast pace, more or less. Of course, it also includes some of Horna's standard mid-paced riffs. By this point, it would be nice to have one track that just keeps up a furious tempo all the way through. Still, that might detract from the morose quality of the music, to some extent.
"Orjaroihu" starts out in a way that, somehow, reminds of the hideous atrocity known as Sudentaival. This song includes a lot of thrashy riffs, mixed in with sorrowful tremolo melodies. This combination is not the best, and the song would have been better with the thrash parts removed. It is natural, with a band working on such a massive album, that some track would not come out as they would have if more time had been allowed for each one.
The next song is "Risti Ja Ruoska", finally breaking from the formula and maintaining a consistent pace, bereft of the slower parts. The riffs are filled with tension and this feeling builds as it goes along, driving you forward to some unknown doom. Other melodies are infused, adding to the epic nature of the song, and dragging it deeper into the dark unknown. From the grating vocals to the harsh guitar riffs, the track appears to build in intensity, before an abrupt ending leaves you, once again, surrounded by nothingness.
"Wikinger" is a cover song, originally by the German band Pest. Oddly enough, Horna picked a song that sounds a lot like their own material. The songwriting is very similar in feeling and style, and even the vocal performance was in the same vein, being more over-the-top and intense. Perhaps, Shatraug thought is sounded enough like his own work and the fact that Saturnus was an original member of Pest was all that was needed to choose this.
This is followed by "Merkuriana", which is the longest track on disc one, clocking in at just over six minutes. Again, tremolo melodies are mixed with mid-paced riffs with some open-arpeggio chords arriving later in the song. This is one of the more memorable songs on the album, and also more miserable. This would have been a good way to end the record, and it seems that was the initial plan.
Disc two begins with "Liekki Ja Voima". One has to wonder whether or not these songs were intended for a separate release, as they are obviously from a different recording session. The production is not the same, and the length and style shifts as well. Perhaps, the second disc was meant for an E.P. or a split release. The first song is eleven minutes long, starting with a mournful tremolo riff that is dripping with utter misery. As this melody flows from the darkness, so to does the blood flow from the wounds that such hopelessness inflicts upon the listener. Somewhat similar to the title track from Äänia Yössä, the riffs are given ample time to draw you into the abyss of suffering and despair, raping your spirit and leaving you vulnerable to the assault to come. The production boasts a rather spectral essence, when compared to the previous songs, and the atmosphere is somewhat distant. Listening to this, one gets a sense of the peace gained by hanging from a noose, lifeless and cold with no remaining connection to the mortal world. The guitar melodies are brilliant and the dismal and nostalgic aura is unforgettable. The only weak point of this would have to be the vocal performance.
"Ruumisalttari" starts out with a riff that is sorrowful and kind of catchy at the same time. There is an introspective and nightmarish quality to this song, which is enshrouded in darkness unheard of on the first disc. While mostly mid-paced, the song includes faster sections that really help to spirit you away to a realm of everlasting shadows and unending pain. Just when it seems that you are nearing the end of your suffering, it becomes clear that you have but reached a deeper level of misery and that the anguish that you have heretofore known was only the beginning.
One of the most haunting and freezing cold riffs of the entire album is featured at the beginning of "Musta Rukous", which is another track that nearly reaches the eleven-minute mark. The faster riffs do well to build a sense of tension, carrying you up into the night sky, while the slower ones represent an unavoidable descent that delivers you to the depths of the shadowed abyss. The mournful riffs and tormented screams work well in conveying a gloomy and lachrymose atmosphere. All that has been lost shall remain so, never to be regained. The end has come, though the process is slow and agonizing, there is no turning back and you can only wait and suffer until the final moments. As the song nears its conclusion, the woeful melody slows down and howls out into the night, summoning the final darkness.
"Baphometin Siunaus" is the final track and a strong way to close out this collection. This one is a bit more catchy than the last one, yet still possesses the same dark essence. It is rather mid-paced, though the middle is considerably slower and delivers the final crushing blows to your spirit. By this point, you have been so utterly annihilated that your arms shall be outstretched, welcoming the end.
Sanojesi Äärelle is a great album, though it may be too much for one to digest in one sitting. It is recommended that the listener take a decent amount of time to really focus on all that is going on here, to fully appreciate it. Shatraug did well to clear up his musical ideas, and though the material here could have resulted in two separate albums, the two-disc concept was not a bad idea. This collection of songs encompasses the band's career and would be a good place for newcomers to start, as well as a worthy addition to the collection of any Black Metal fan.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
NOTE: This was a review that I had written for the newly released album last year on CultMetal.com. After re-reading it, I decided to post it here.
Ah, Finland, home to….well I don’t know anything historic about Finland outside of defeating the Russians during WWII, but I do know Finland is home to hail-worthy acts such as Beherit, Archgoat, Sargeist, Satanic Warmaster, Behexen, Impaled Nazarene, etc. Also home to the underrated act Horna. Not underrated as in so obscure that they put out one demo/ep/LP and vanished into thin air ( IE: Morbid Saint, Necrovore, Necrofago) but underrated in the fact that not too many of my BM comrades don’t give them then time to listen to their music. after 15 years, 3 demos, 14 splits, 8 EPs, 8 LPs, and 2 Best of/compilations, you’d think they would get some kind of merit for their hard work and die-hard determination to keep the black flame of extreme satanic metal burning brightly. In fact just recently in the latest issue of Metal Maniacs, the so-called ‘witers’( and I stress this word because the lack of quality has gone down over the past couple of years with the Metalcore/Deathcore/scenester bullshit infiltrating the pages….yuck!) finally gave Horna the time of day to have a pretty in-depth interview.
My own personal knowledge of the band goes back to when I was a wee lad just discovering BM and i found a copy of their “Hindentoni” (Finnish for “The Demon Tower) demo re-released on Solisitium Records in 1997 on cd and all I can remember was that it was way too extreme for me then. I have a general rule-of-thumb when it comes to music; if it's too extreme, it's fucking good. Remember 1996/1997 was just when the Scandinavian hordes had infiltrated the state-side shores and was laying waste to the Death Metal trend and everyone was just starting to being introduced to only the Norwegian acts such as Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, Emperor, as well as Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, etc. Fast-forward to 2006-2007 where Horna is just a vague memory in my damaged mind from many nights of alcohol-induced dementia and narcotic schizophrenic states of thrashing the fuck out to my personal faves with my friends. All of a sudden Metal Maniacs and other publications are giving good reviews to them, along with advertisements by Moribund Records for their latest offering “Ääniä yössä.” I pick it up and I am mesmerized by the simplistic approach to BM. Dark, hellish, simplistic, and FILTHY. Giving it an almost punk spirit. I must have had “Ääniä yössä” spinning in my stereo/discman months on end, but goddamn it was good. Hell I still listen to it today.
So then, keeping up with the times, I added them to my friends list to my Myspace.com account(who the fuck doesn't do that these days?) and kept a close eye on upcoming material. One song “Baphometin Siunaus” was announced that is would be on the new double LP coming out in the fall of 2008. Just like waiting for Santa from the north pole to deliver the goodies, i waited, and waited and was a good boy….OK I take that back, I got into a few fist fights and snapped at a couple of people at work for being incompetent and lazy….but I waited and finally about 3 weeks ago, I scanned the isles at a local Mom & Pop record store and found the double CD digipack. Oh yes! I quickly purchased it and popped it into my truck’s CD player;
Disc 1 of “Sanojesi Äärelle” starts off with the mid-paced “Muinaisten Alttarilta” with the lead singer Corvus screaming like a animal in torture which picks up the speed into various tempos. And for most of the 1st disc this is what you get; Corvus maintaining his tortured screams, Shatraug and Infection keeping the quality riffs bleeding like an ever flowing stream. You have your headbanging slowed-down parts, your slow breaks, growls, etc.etc. that whole 666 yards of ugly, dirty Finnish BM. Track No. 9 “Wikinger” is a cover version of German band PEST (ex-Nordlys….not to be confused with the same Pest that released the killer “Ara” on Full Moon Productions in ‘03. Check out my review for that as well on Metal-Archives.com). The cover itself sounds….well….exactly like Horna. I haven’t heard the original version so I cannot form an opinion on such, but is definitely one of the stand-outs on Disc 1. Others includes the machine-like delivery intro riff to track 7 “ Orjaroihu” and the killer growl of Corvus on track 3 “ Mustan Kirkkauden Sarastus.”
Disc 2 of “Sanojesi Äärelle” finally offers up something completely different in sound production that could easily could have come from their 2006 offering “Ääniä yössä.” In the song “Liekki Ja Voima”, riff-wise it’s more of a melancholic mood than the raging violent type on Disc 1. “Ruumisalttari” is mostly doomy with a noodle-like (ramien is kvlt?) melody mixed in. The last two tracks “Musta Rukous”, and ”Baphometin Siunaus” are excellent examples of how Horna are able to slow down and show melody, in fact IMO they both could have been combined and easily been a 2 part song to the double album.
In total, “Sanojesi Äärelle” is for the more experienced Horna listener. For new-comers to the filthy Finns I highly suggest either their 2004 split with Behexen or their 2006 LP “Ääniä yössä.” “Sanojesi Äärelle” is really a shining example of how a Black Metal band can pull off a double LP and be entirely enjoyable making you want to listen to both discs all thr way through and then on repeat. Not to mention blows most everything out of the muck that is considered BM these days. It’s well-paced out, on course, and doesn’t fucking let up until your ears have been scorched off by the fire and brimstone of the horned diety these maniacs worship. Must have BM album for 2008.
Also I must note something that I didn't in the original posting of this review; Horna did their first-ever North America apperance last year and even ran through New Orleans where I was living at the time and even closer to my hometown in Tampa, Fl. I'm still kicking myself in the ass for not getting a chance to see them....but maybe it's better to just imagine the aura these guys gave off.
Although fundamentally different on many levels, this release is strangely reminiscent of the Darkthrone masterpiece, Transilvanian Hunger. From the songs built on simple but solid riffs to the unmistakable feel of the album, Horna have managed to produce what many will find to be a modern classic. However, there are some attributes that may be tiring to some.
The production is the typical style of Horna: slightly refined for decent clarity but still well within the raw side of the spectrum. There is no trace of Pro-Tools here. This works extremely well for the effect they were clearly trying to create.
Riffs are generally simple but still awesome and compliment the song structure. Everything fits together very well and nothing sounds out of place. Drums are a little lower in the mix but still audible and uphold the guitar riffing. Blast beats are found throughout, as well as some double bass runs and mid-paced patterns. Vocals are also well done. Corvus has some seriously vicious shrieks and although the lyrical content isn't clear to me (I don't speak Finnish), the vocals are the perfect fit for the music. All in all, the writing is standard black metal style but superb execution.
The biggest feature of the album is the fantastic atmosphere that is generated by the combination of these elements. From anger and sadness to feelings of isolation and darkness, Sanojesi Äärelle accomplishes the atmosphere that so many black metal bands strive for. This is true in the variance from track to track, as well as for the album as a whole. It has been a long time since an album has accomplished this on this magnitude.
The only drawback of the album is its simplicity. Some may find that the riffs and structure may be repetitive but this is a common complaint of any black metal with minimalist tendencies. However, this does not detract from the effect nearly enough to warrant low marks or negative comments.
Sanojesi Äärelle is a fantastic album and Horna have done well to stay true to their style in order to produce such a quality listening experience. This release is highly recommended to metal fans and is a must have for fans of Horna or black metal in general.