Although I’ve been following HORNA’s career for a while now I must admit that they only became a big deal for me with the release of the 2006 album “Ääniä Yössä”. That album’s effective mixture of raw Black Metal and hypnotic slow grooves turned me into a bona fide fanboy and I really wanted to see the band explore and refine this more epic side of their sound even more on “Sanojesi Äärelle”. In true Finnish style these guys didn’t disappoint with their latest album, one which happened to be their most ambitious yet.
First things first: “Sanojesi Äärelle” is a double album clocking in at nearly 90 minutes (!), with the material on disc 1 “worshipping Satanic darkness”, while the second disc is dedicated to “praising Luciferian light”. Satanic darkness and Luciferian light is pretty much one and the same thing if you ask me but in musical terms the two discs couldn’t be further apart, as disc 1 features straight-up frills-free raw Black Metal very much in the early DARKTHRONE/BATHORY vein, while disc 2 sees the band breaking out some of the most sorrow-filled and grim melodies of their career, the slower nature of these 4 epic tracks being a further refinement and ultimate perfection of the style found on the aforementioned “Ääniä Yössä”. Double albums are always a risky proposition, especially in extreme Metal, but the band’s decision to split this new album into two parts has turned out to be a masterstroke as it allowed them to fully explore the two distinct sides to their sound, as well as giving fans a good summation of their musical evolution up to this point.
As mentioned, the ten tracks that make up the first disc are strictly of the raw and to-the-point variety. The band wastes no time in getting right down to business and while the relative brevity of these songs don’t really allow for any significant build up of atmosphere the solid riffs and powerfully harsh snarls of vocalist Corvus makes it all worthwhile. “Verilehto” is a slower song with a groovy feel (not unlike recent DARKTHRONE or MOTÖRHEAD), while the title track and “Orjaroihu” tear away at you in the best Black Metal fashion, the aforementioned title track featuring a surprisingly catchy chorus, while the latter’s riff-heavy approach gives it a heavy Death Metal feel at times. They also throw in some melodic undertones here and there but these never come off as forced, being there only to add a sense of feeling to the otherwise rigidly traditional band-‘n-clang. If you liked their songs on the split with BEHEXEN then you will definitely like what they came up with here, as the songs have the same vibe and sound. Overall a solid set of songs that ticks all the “kvlt” boxes (the good ones anyway) and the generally terse nature of the songs gives the impression that many of them were the result of a well-heeled jam and, well, diabolical jam session. Solid stuff, but it’s with disc two that they bring out the big fucking guns...
Disc 2 – the “praising Luciferian light” part – is simply huge. Four tracks each with an average duration of about 10 minutes, and even after repeated listens I’ve yet to discover a wasted note in any of these particular songs. If this album had released as a single disc consisting of only these four songs I would’ve had no qualms about giving it top marks, as these particular songs see the band at their absolute creative zenith. Where the material on the first disc thrashed away in a rather brisk and admittedly “unimaginative” manner, these four songs find the band slowing down the tempo significantly, upping the emotional element, sharpening the melodies and simply opening the floodgates to all their evil genius. The introspective melancholia of these songs ensures that they resonate with the listener on a much deeper and almost spiritual level and the result is Black Metal perfection. Not only is the approach to song-writing different but the production sounds different as well, leading me to believe that they were written at a different time than those on the first disc. “Musta Rukous” is a monumental triumph of depressive melodies, epic leads, pained vocals and everything else that is to be found in a classic Black Metal hymn. Speaking of leads/melodies, there’s one repeated (albeit slightly altered) in both the aforementioned song as well as “Liekki Ja Voima” that strongly reminded me of those found in DEATHSPELL OMEGA’s “Carnal Malefactor”, and it suits their sound bloody perfectly. These elements are simply class and they ensure that these songs stay engaging despite their hefty duration. I’ll say it again – perfection.
With the wait for a new ENOCHIAN CRESCENT dragging on for another year and with BEHEXEN having dropped the ball somewhat with their latest album, this new HORNA disc has fully sated all my Black Metal needs. The one-dimensional nature first disc does drag the quality down somewhat (hence the 8,5 score) but this is a minor complaint when considering the majesty of the second disc. Not only is “Sanojesi Äärelle” a career highlight for them (and one that will no doubt end up in my year-end list) but it also shows that Finnish Black Metal is still amongst the most potent in the scene. Respect!
(Online November 13, 2008)