Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Spectrum of Death (Horna - Kuoleman Kirjo 2020)

 Horna, one of the most legendary Finnish Black Metal acts, has returned after 5 years presenting us with an ode to Saatanan him self named 'Kuoleman Kirjo'. This release does not disappoint, an aggressive assault on the senses that keeps their raw unadulterated sound alive, while pushing the production style to more a more modern-era. Horna's line up has changed up a lot over the years, with only Shatraug, guitarist and founding member, being the consistant member. But this current line up, in my opinion is the best so far for the band. Spellgoth, vocalist, has a very infectious voice. Its harsh, unnerving and evil, yet its sadistically charming. There's also Infection, who provides back up vocals and rhythm guitar, creates perfect atmosphere with each of the songs, with furious tremolo picking and a great deep voice that provides perfect backup for Spellgoth. There's also L.R.H, Spellgoth's brother and drummer for the band, is by far the most impressive one. As someone who really enjoys drumming, this guy does not let up. Double peddle kicks through out the whole album and blindingly fast blast beats. He's also able to switch it up when it needs to be, some punkish beats on tracks like 'Unohtumaton', 'Mustat Vuodet', and 'Veriuhri', which is an iconic sound in the Finnish Black Metal scene. There's also the newest member VnoM, bassist, and provides an excellent support that the album used excellently. 

Each song flows into one another, creating an impressive trek through darkness, and despite its length, a little over an hour and running at 13 tracks, doesn't get boring or tiring at all. Shatraug's impressive guitar riffs, with certian repeating patterns that appear through out the album, create a mournful atmosphere like in the later parts of the track 'Sydänkuoro', where the riffs slow down and Spellgoth goes from his harsh screaming to a booming Satanic-Gregorian chant. What I find impressive is how, they don't wish to experiment too much with the sounds though. Sure the band adds in newer production styles, maybe a different presentation and structure to the songs, but it all still goes back to their roots. Some more hardcore 'trve kvlt' black metal types would say that their approach to a more modern style production is a determent for the band, creating a cleaner more 'polished' sound, claiming that they're losing their roots, but on the contrary, they provide ample evidence through out the album that would say otherwise. Certain vocal performances by Spellgoth reminds one of early Mayhem, like the song 'Haudattujen Tähtien Yönä', where his voice is harsh and desperate, like he's pleading out for his life. There are even certian riffs that call back to those older bands, like the opening riff on 'Sydänkuoro' reminds me of certain Burzum riffs, though I can't place a finger on it.

What really stands out to me and I want to emphasize more is the production style of the album. Horna is known for staying trve to the original lo-fi sound of black metal. Steering well clear in their previous albums from a more cleaner sound, preferring to sport a more fuzzy, gritty and dirty sound that creates a layer of atmosphere while keeping the instrumentation simple, yet effective. On this album however, they decided to approach it cleanly, or as close as you can get to 'clean' in black metal. The guitars are sharp and not as muddled up as before, the vocals have a very professional style quality to them, rather than being recorded in a basement as I'd like to picture many black metal vocalists like to do. The drums are also mixed rather differently, giving more room for the double bass to be heard, while the snare is rather turned down a bit, taking a back seat to the unrelenting double bass. The bass riffs, typically, are turned down, like most black metal bands tend to do, but they're still there, giving you that deep rumbling feeling in your chest when you listen to it, its a rather clever way of keeping it there, yet not making it so in your face or taking over the guitars as well. If they decided to approach this album in a more traditional gritty way, I don't think it'd be as fun to listen too. It'd feel like they'd be rehashing the same thing over again, but instead they were able to keep their traditional play style while pushing it to the modern era is a great addition in my opinion.

All in all, this album is an amazing addition to Horna's discography. An offering even Saatanan him self would find appeasing. Some of my favorite tracks off the album include 'Sydänkuoro', 'Saatanan Viha', 'Haudattujen Tähtien Yönä', and 'Rakas Kuu'. 

Originally Written: 1/29/2021


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