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Photo finish - 82%

DC68, March 6th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, World Terror Committee Productions

Finland against Switzerland. If we debated the outcome of an ice hockey match, we would easily come to a consent about the likely winning team. Talking about a black metal challenge though, the situation is more complex and requires thorough analysis.

The respective band´s monikers. Horna since their inception live up to their name. Whether the meaning is abyss, hell or inferno, we couldn´t care less and I think we all agree that this is exactly what Horna is epitomizing. The Swiss guards are a different story, however. There is nothing “Pure” to be found on the band´s releases so far. Unless pure is meant to augment the significance of evil, rawness and true black metal underground spirit. As I personally like it straight, winner on points in the category of terminological logic is the Finnish horde.

Undoubtedly more important is the question who earns the award in terms of musical performance. Let me start with the representatives of the country of chocolate, cheese fondue and snow-clad mountains (I still do not get it why in the list of typical Swiss clichés black metal bands are missing….). If you were familiar with Pure´s releases so far, my summary would be “nothing new at the perpetual neutrality front”. The soldiers of the Swiss war machine still devote their bodies and souls to a pretty raw form of black metal. Their sound is meant to destroy and not evoke pictures of slowly withering flowers on a barren field. And they don´t care whether they draw you into “The Black Depth” in a speedy manner or rather choose to slowly grind you into pieces like in “Imara”. What I like is that “raw” for Pure does not equal abysmal simplicity or repetitive tediousness. The songs vary enough to not slowly euthanize you and especially the already quoted “The Black Depth” presses you with your back to the wall. Some barely audible melody hovers above the blast beats, more pronounced when the band slows down in between, just to disappear again in the blink of an eye.

Horna do not fall short and deliver one of their best performances of the last years. Sounding a lot more like Sargeist on “Let the Devil In” than on their last full release “Hengen tulet”, they blast through your auditory passage with vehemence. Time for taking a breath? No chance! This time Shatraug outdid himself. He knocks out one exciting riff after the other and inserts just the right amount of catchiness to briefly stop the bleeding of your eardrums. The band furthermore placed the songs in the order of their impact. “Kielletyn Tulen Kantaja” is a beast of superbly executed black metal. But they saved the deadliest grenade for last: “Kohti Myrskyjen Vuosia” is one of the best songs I ever heard the band performing. Driven forward by relentlessly pounding drums and supported again by anther brilliant riff that sounds in parts more Swedish than Finnish, you just want to listen to these three and a half minutes in an infinite loop.

Production and vocal performance. Adequate for both squads in terms of the first criteria. I did not expect Pure to turn to Peter Tägtgren and start polishing all rough edges of their pre-recording. Nevertheless, in comparison to their Finnish brothers in musical arms they do lose by a tiny margin. Horna this time managed to square the circle. Their production is of course still no feast for the fans of classical music and carries enough dirt and grime to not let you forget some of the previous sound disasters. However, with the exception of the bass guitar – what a surprise – enough room is given to appreciate the ingenious guitar work and the decent drumming. Vocals. A lot of complaints have been heard since Horna replaced Corvus with Spellgoth. For the here reviewed release I cannot support this lamentation. I agree that his performance is probably the easiest to be replaced feature. On the other hand, where needed he helps to drive the team towards the borders of madness and chaos. His Swiss fellow soldier Bornyhake delivers the slightly more impressive part though. Marginally distorted he transports pure hate, darkness and destructive force in a more convincing manner.

What would have been a clear case in ice hockey, turned out to be a challenge in the black metal duel. And you know what. I do not fucking care who is ahead by the tip of the nose. This split release is great fun to listen to. And if you really insist, yes, photo finish, Finland comes in at first place.