The Ukrainian Atmospheric Black Metallers of KHORS are back with their latest effort, titled “Mysticism” and after the previous album “Cold” had been a fairly big surprise to me almost two years ago, I was looking forward to how the quartet from Kharkiv had progressed in the mean time. Other than the other bands the members have (had) been in before I do not know much about this band, so let’s dive into the music right away and the title definitely is very well chosen, as a somewhat mystic atmosphere emanates from almost all songs on the album, beginning with the three minute instrumental “Through The Rays Of Fading Moon”, which starts out very calmly and then builds up, seamlessly leading into “Raven’s Dance”, which continues in slow tempo and with keyboard support, so haters of the keyed instrument will probably not last long.
Even when they speed things up and increase the Black Metal content, as on “Winterfall”, and create more power, KHORS know how to take things down a notch and insert these wonderfully atmospheric instrumental passages that even offer up some clean guitars in the middle, creating the mental imagery of a winter storm sweeping through and then giving way to the serene beauty of a wintery landscape, showing that they are one of the few bands out there that actually actively manage to transfer emotions and true imagery through their compositions alone, which is further aided by the immensely clear production, which lets each single detail shine (just listen to the bass drum patterns of the title track) and allows the Ukrainians to let the atmosphere flow freely.
Some of the harmonies and melodies almost have a PINK FLOYD-ish quality, such as the dreamy guitar melody of “In The Cold Embrace Of Mist” or the closing “Red Mirrors”, which goes very well with the harsh, abrasive vocals of Helg and the thundering double-bass driving the often slow rhythm forward. One of the great things about KHORS is their ability to combine the ugliness of Black Metal with the beauty of melodies and atmospheres in a very nice flow, with surprises and twists and turns, yet without losing the accessibility and catchiness. Speaking of surprises, “Red Mirrors” not only has a PINK FLOYD touch, but also complete clean vocals, deep and expressive, definitely would not have expected that from KHORS.
“Mysticism” should cater to a fairly wide variety of listeners, as they cover a quite big spectrum, I could see fans of BORKNAGAR or MOONSORROW like this as well as those who enjoy Post Rock/Metal influences, this is a little masterpiece that took a big step forward from the already enjoyable “Cold”, so if you feel attracted to what I have written here, check this out, otherwise you might miss out!
(Online May 24, 2009)