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EXCEPTIONAL, DIFFERENT....... - 100%

BlackenedSally, February 14th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Moribund Records

...........album from this fantastic Finnish black metal band. This is a concept album dealing with the Black Plague that decimated Europe's population in the Middle Ages. Lyrics are sung in Finnish, but the incredibly oppressive atmosphere this album conveys is more than enough to portrait the desperation suffered by the victims; the album starts out with a brief sample of rat sounds and the vocalist's screams as if in agony throughout the whole album. The overall pace is similar to that of the depressive suicidal BM style, but with a unique sound to it, the Horna sound, punkier, dirtier, fuzzier.

The album is 43' long and it's divided into 4 parts or songs. A long one, followed by a shorter one, a mid-duration faster/heavier one that ensues, and a 20' opus of a closer track, which is where the real treat resides IMHO. More on that later.

The sound is simply mind-numbing; it's been a while since I heard such a well-recorded album. And it's not that it's a clean and sterile recording, or a thin, muddy or dirty lo-fi record. Mind you, I'm an audiophile and will take a hi-fi recording over something like Transilvanian Hunger on any given day, only this is.....both !!! I mean it sounds raw, but every instrument has incredible presence; it's a safe bet to define it as a raw-sounding hi-fi CD.

The guitar sound is purposely opaque, fuzzy and crunchy, unlike the barbed-wire thin sound of more conventional BM bands; nothing is conventional here !! Vocals, courtesy of the then-new vocalist Corvus (my favorite) are another instrument since they're high in the mix, but never grating. Another peculiarity is.....there's an audible bass guitar !!! . This is more patent on the last song, where it clearly follows the guitar lines, only just as loud as them. Since this album was recorded by just Corvus and Shatraugh, the drums are programmed, not that I could tell, mind you, and they're incredibly good to boot, with just one , highly mixed-in kick drum for great punch and bottom end.

And then it hits you.....the 20' album closer, which tries (and succeeds IMO) to convey the sensation a victim of the plague experimented during their last minutes of agony and consequent death. The mix changes drastically respecting the first half of the album; louder drums and bass, with two quieter, distant-sounding guitars. It indeed beleongs to a later-in-that-year recording session, but the end result is simply perfect, like a different-sounding side B of a record. The songs may be too repetitive for a non-fan, but the percussion and bass alone, along with the scarce, agonic shrieking vocals made my day. Plus, there are subtle variations in the intertwining guitar parts that are a delight to detect; nothing boring about this song, or album for that matter.

This was my entrance point to the Horna world, closely followed by the excellent Sotahuuto and Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne, another two albums with Corvus on vocals.

Get it for your first or only Horna taste, which together with Beherit are Finland's finest.


(originally written for Amazon by yours truly)