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Talented, but is it really "Celtiberian"? - 85%

Derigin, May 24th, 2008

As a compliment, it needs to be said that this album was fit for a live venue. While it in itself isn't a live album by any means, it has the feeling or the sense that it belongs to be played in such a venue; it's an energetic adrenaline rush which is fit for head-banging and other forms of casual appreciation. The strongest elements are the instruments. Hordak is successful in combining talented riffs, acoustic intermissions, and duet-based introductions (as in "Neton Mit Uns") to the point where the guitars, bass and drums are entertaining alone. This could explain their emphasis on instruments contrary to the vocals; the proportion of vocals within each song is much, much lower. That doesn't mean the vocals are of poor quality. Although, they're characterized as being more reserved and timid, the vocals complement the instruments appropriately. Overall, Hordak's "War Has Just Begun" is an excellent debut album. However, I do question what is particularly unique about "Celtiberian" pagan black metal, other than perhaps in the local.

With the instruments, the members of Hordak are at their best. The guitar work is above-average in its application; the variety of changes in tempo, style and harmony that can be as quickly and 'flawlessly' applied is remarkable, even in isolation. In conjunction with the (decent, though not remarkable) drums and the intuitive use of the bass, together the instruments hearken to a more complete and fulfilled sound. It is my own hope that the artists continue working together. The music that radiates between the duets is... unexpectedly a surprise.

The vocals, or better defined as the harsh vocals and the bellowing growls, exhibit competence in the vocalist; they're clear in expression and meaningful. The vocals have, what could be described, is a serious and empathetic understanding of lyrics which may otherwise be comically or apathetically sung. The weaknesses with the vocals lie in their more contained use. They're not as widely utilized as the instruments, something which (at points) leads to the thought that their use would have benefited, not hindered, the songs if they had been additionally employed - this is particularly evident in the latter songs, where vocals were less frequent as earlier in the album. To further contain the vocals, the vocalists themselves don't seem to be as confident with the vocals as is made out in this review. The vocals are unfortunately neglected and occasionally drowned out by the instruments.

This concludes with the question, what really sets this album apart as "Celtiberian"? What makes it unique beyond its technical and vocal competence? The tempo seems, in part, to show similarities to the tempo of Spanish music, yet that is not uncommon for the instruments - the guitar, after all, originated at least partially in Iberia. The style, as well as the lyrics, would be appropriate in any other geographic region of Europe where pagan or folk metal is popular, be it Scandinavia or the Slavic East. In this, what is conveyed is no more unique or innovative than any other band in the same genre. Hordak's "War Has Just Begun" does succeed to express the best qualities of the genre, though. Even though it's difficult to perceive the "Celtiberian" element in the meaning, the meaning itself is provided - as through the instruments and the vocals - with relevant admiration. One day, if there ever will be that day, it would be an honor to see Hordak play this album in concert.