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Sotahuuto is not an ordinary album. The title is Finnish for "War Cry", and that is fairly appropriate given the nature of this L.P. As the liner notes state, the material was written in the spring of 2004, in tribute of Bathory. This was oddly timed, as Quorthon would pass from this realm a short time later. In general, gimmick albums should be avoided, but it is more acceptable considering Horna's prolific nature.
The quality of the material is decent enough. Of course, there are a good number of stolen Bathory riffs mixed in, as well as others that are greatly inspired by Quorthon's older works. It can get repetitive at times, since some of the ideas sound too similar. Both "Lähtölaukaus" and "Tuhontuoja" start out with riffs that are reminiscent of "Born for Burning", from The Return... Though the album features a lot of old school Black Metal riffs that hearken back to the 80s, Horna's distinctive style still bleeds through and even the melodies that come off as extremely plagiarized are only pieces of a larger framework. "Sodanjano", in particular, actually seems to break away from the tribute altogether, yet still fits in with the rest. Along with the different style of songwriting that dominates Sotahuuto, the length of the individual tracks is much shorter than the last few Horna albums, as a result.
As for the production, this album is even more raw and abrasive than its predecessors. Thankfully, the band recruited a real drummer this time around, so it all sounds much more natural than on Ääniä Yössä. The guitars are very thin and trebly, though are somewhat surpassed in the mix by the vocals. One major complaint with the band is the vocal style that Corvus utilizes, since he almost always sounds strained and as if he is pushing the limits, meaning that there is less variation and less opportunity to accentuate the atmosphere of the music. His voice gives the whole album a feeling of harshness that can be irritating, at times, especially being so prominent in the mix. While this may be what Shatraug had in mind, Horna would probably benefit from getting a new vocalist of for their current one to learn his craft a bit more.
Sotahuuto is a solid album of primitive, raw, ugly Black Metal with a lot of old school feeling. While it is a tribute to Bathory, it does not sound like a total clone of Quorthon's old sound (other than a handful of stolen riffs that are worked in), but definitely in the same vein. There is still enough of Horna's original sound present for this to be easily identified. Not essential, but a good dose of hellish music.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Horna's career has not only been full of splits and 7" releases with strict copy limitations; the band has also gone through massive numbers of slight changes in their style. Their more widely distributed releases mostly consist of slowish-to-medium-paced black metal with influence from a number of other metal subgenres. Sotahuuto takes the band perhaps further to one of the directions than any full-length before it.
While the album keeps the outer layers of Horna's black metal intact, it still has something different deep inside. There vocals are still shrieked like before, and the production is screeching and deceptively thin-sounding, even if it has all the instruments clearly audible and carries a considerable load of heaviness in it. Even the lyrics still swear allegiance to Satan, and the concept of the album -warfare against god in a somewhat WWII-ish form- seems like standard Horna format. But the black soul of the music has a different character, and bows to old-school masters of the trade.
Deep within, Sotahuuto is made of half black metal, half dirty, blackened and raped heavy metal. The riffs have a very traditional heavy metal structures, and while the grim production does its best to hide the fact, the album is incredibly rocking instead of classical straightforward black metal. Essentially, it hearkens back to the days before De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and its kind. There's a dash of Bathory, some Venom, and plenty of good riffs, all blended into a cake covered with a black metal production icing, and the mess is rather tasty.
Should we be surprised? No. The album's back cover specifically mentions that it's a tribute to Bathory, and even if it does not sound like a carbon copy of Quorthon's works, it pays tribute to the spirit of Bathory and the first wave of black metal. Dirty, scarred and despicable heavy metal, of the kind that gave a grim birth to the later black metal aesthetics, but still obviously and heavily influenced by the original heavy metal and primitive speed metal, all done with immense respect to the late 80s style. This is the kind of tribute all tributes should be: preserving the spirit, but not copying the details.
Even if Sotahuuto amounts to a surprising deviation from the usual Horna style, it definitely is a welcome addition to their discography. Perhaps the band is at their best when they employ their medium-paced style and apply their immense skill in writing catchy hooks and traditional black metal riffs, but Sotahuuto is in any case a worthy album, and might work as a gateway for younger black metal aficionados, enabling them to discover the roots of their music. Too bad it takes some knowledge and patience to actually read the back cover of the album, to interpret the message, and thereby find the old masters that inspired the album; something the youngsters of the day seem to lack. But if one in ten of those who hear it go through the trouble and eventually end up hearing Quorthon's masterpieces or some other albums from the first wave of black metal, it's worth it.
So, this is not a usual Horna album, nor a piece of work that absolutely has to be heard, but a worthy tribute, and experiment and a return to the roots. While there are those who will unavoidably find this unworthy of their attention among the works of Horna, they might end up missing something essential. Because this paints a picture of the origins of black metal, and it paints it with the blood of Christ. Go and hear this, and raise a mug of mead to Quorthon's memory while you're at it.
Horna have provided a steady stream of raw, unadulterated, unpronounceable black metal albums, each subtly different and explorative from the others. Sotahuuto does not break this trend, their sound is a bit different then other albums, but it’s still the same good old’ Horna. Sotahuuto opens with Lähtölaukaus, a track I can only describe as raw, and yet catchy and dynamic. This trend continues throughout the album- Shatraug’s riffs all differing, making the album continuously interesting. Although it is not technical in drumming or on guitar, it is still catchy, interesting, innovative and raw as fuck. The production is more clear then on other releases, which can be regarded as a good thing.
The songs all have rather unconventional structures, and are dominated by the shrieks of Corvus. His voice is high and raspy and fits awesomely with the music. The bass is a fuzzy sonic wave that is audible throughout the album, contrasted by the sharper, distorted guitar riffs. Although the riffs tend to be redundant, they maintain a level of dynamics that make them entertaining. Overall, Sotahuuto is a very well produced album, pick it up if you ever manage to find it.