Review: Horna – Hengen Tulet

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May contain small traces of Satan.

Chances are, you know Horna, even if you don’t like black metal. The whole “raw but melodic” sound of the Finnish scene is embodied in them. Many of their former (and current) musicians have achieved fame in other bands. Satanic Warmaster, Sargeist, Baptism, Behexen, Sotajumala, Alghazanth and Drowning The Light are only the most known. Throughout their history their sound has remained relatively uniform, though long-time fans will have noted a few bigger changes. The most important of these developments seems to have come and gone as the band has rotated through front men. Vocalist Corvus, though no longer with the band, brought upon a new era of melodies when he joined in 2002, and Horna took their place at the forefront of the Finnish scene. However, this change seemed to be only temporary, as Corvus was replaced by Spellgoth around 2009, marking another shift in the band’s sound.

Back in 2013 when the band released Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa, their first with Spellgoth on vocals, it seemed that the melodies had gone with the man who had brought them. Returning to a rawer and more primitive sound, it wasn’t a bad album but easily one of the band’s weakest. With Hengen Tulet, Horna seek to follow the same path but with a more fully realized vision.

In the days before the coming of the raven, when Nazgul ruled the land as well as the skies, Horna’s strain of raw black metal was of the most usual kind, topped with the usual kind of production: foggy and grim. The rawness encountered here is not the same. The fuller sound that gives room to all instruments, even the bass, while retaining a clear unpolished edge is more brutal than grim, not cold but fiery like the very abyss from which the band lift their name.  The band makes better use of this on Hengen Tulet than they did on the similarly produced ALS.

The songwriting is simple and at times even punk-y, a feeling fortified by the shout-chorus of “Tämä Maailma Odottaa” (one of the album’s definite highlights), but overall the album is less shy of melody than its predecessor seemed to be. This side may not be as strong as it once was, but it was definitely a dose this album – and band – needed.

Spellgoth’s guttural voice is loud, as if it was meant to lead these songs, and this approach certainly works. I wasn’t convinced by his performance on ALS, but either he’s grown on me, gotten better, or I got over the fact he’s in this band as well. The slight monotony of his vocals only serves to fortify the primal savagery, allowing him to develop from arguably the band’s weakest link to one of their greatest assets.

Mostly the tracks begin at a fast pace, slow down towards the middle to a mid-tempo, then return to raging at the end, to a point where this feels formulaic. There is some variation though; the organ intro to “Puhdas” divides the album in two halves before giving way to an angry barrage of riffs, and the band goes outright rocks on “Sodan Roihu”. While the rest of the album mostly follows suit, I would imagine Hengen Tulet is different enough for any Horna fan to dig in, and if you’re a newcomer this wouldn’t be the worst place to start your digging.

Hengen Tulet is a very regular black metal album. It brings no innovation, but what it does, it does well. Topped with a good production, it might be one of the best “conventional” bm albums you’ll hear all year (ironically, also perhaps the least conventional).

TOILETSCALE_3_of_5

 

That’s 3/5 Toilets ov Hell

(I awarded +0.5 points for the cover art. So I’ll just let you know here that if you think it’s not a good cover you might want to shove your head up your arse until you choke deduct that many points!)

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  • Celtic Frosty

    +666 GBP for the Youtube links spelling out “Satanic!”

    • Pesky little links.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      ‘Tis a simple pun, for I am a simple being. I had some fun devicing.

  • Scrimm

    Sounds kinda like Arckanum only not as good.

  • Tyree

    3 out of 5 flaming toilets ay? I was worried after hearing that last song they posted. Still dig the production and the atmosphere on the two tracks I’ve heard. I’ll still give it a try, thanks for the write-up Bear. Hail Hiidentorni!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEOM8QTU4Uc

  • KJM

    MOAR SATAN PLZ

  • Tyree

    Also, Satanic Warmaster kicked ass at HH.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VymI97UWSvU

    • Stanley
      • Tyree

        YUP! They played that too. Fuck dude, that set was so good.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf1yLXDReGM

        • Stanley

          Excellent stuff, but that back drop is awful. Distracting/10.

          • Tyree

            It was pretty chaotic at times. Most of the time it was just static, but not for SW apparently.

          • Stanley

            It looks like the graphic designer was on some kind of hallucinogen.

          • Tyree

            It wouldn’t surprise me. Haha.

            For the most part It was pretty rad though. During certain songs for bands they would project the album artwork on the backdrop. I really can’t complain, it was more professional then I expected it to be honestly.

          • Stanley

            Some of these projection backdrops are pretty cool and as you said it gives the show a professional feel. Most of the time when I see them used, they are very distracting. I think a less is more approach would work better. Just enough stuff to keep it interesting and add some atmosphere but not so much as to distract from the band. I didn’t know what I was watching up there. It took a while to realize that Werewolf was sitting on the floor!

          • Tyree

            I completely agree. That flashy fast moving shit is very distracting, especially for a band like Satanic Warmaster. Like you said just enough to add some bleak ambiance/atmosphere will do fine.

  • Tyree

    Simple is not a bad thing. I’m fine with a “very regular black metal album”. As long as the riffs, atmosphere, production, song writing, and intensity is there.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Ditto.
      It’s nowhere near Horna’s best, but it’s a very solid album. And I dig the production quite a lot, more bands should go for it.

      • Tyree

        Agreed on the production. Not too clean and not too raw, but very atmospheric and evil. Looking forward to listening to all of this album, even Horna’s weaker work is still enjoyable for me, although I still need to hear a lot more of their shit. Their catalog is pretty big.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          I haven’t listened to exactly all of their catalog myself, and I’ve been at it for years.
          Especially before ALS it felt like they had a new EP or a split out every week.

          • Tyree

            Indeed, the amount of splits and EP’s they have is ridiculous; but awesome! Just makes it hard to listen to everything is all.

    • KJM

      GOD IS DEAD. THE YEAR IS ONE. SATAN LIVES!!!

  • Not in the mood right now to listen this, but I must say that this is an impressive review given the score and the genre they play. I feel that you reached your own style on the reviews, more personal and opinionated, which is pretty cool and great.

    Kudos, Beargod! My congratulations to you! Hope the band reach out this review! And, yep: the cover art is awesome.

    • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

      Thang juu veri meni.
      Though I doubt this will prove very far up your alley.

      • In fact, in contrast with last weeks full of power/speed/trad metal, this afternoon I listened Paradise Lost’ Icon and I’m on the painful experience of listening Shape of Despair’s last album. IT’S HAPPENING AGAIN! I’m in death/doom chip.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          The Shape of Despair one is really good. Comin’ back to it all the time.

  • BEARD OV GREAT DAWKINS

    Dis okay

  • CyberneticOrganism
    • JJM

      solid flick

  • Waynecro

    Great review. I listened to the hell out of the Horna/Musta Surma CD when it came out, but that was in 2000. Shit, man, where does the time go?

    • Janitor Jim Duggan

      I enjoyed the review too.

      • Waynecro

        I like Horna, but I tend to forget about them if something doesn’t remind me when they put out a new CD. I’ll definitely check this one out.

        • Janitor Jim Duggan

          I’m not a black metal guy. It’s just not my thing.

          • Waynecro

            I kind of have to be in the mood to listen to it, which I have been a lot lately. But I tend to like black metal with a lot of melody. Of course, there’s a time and a place for shit that’s just rage and noise as well.

  • KJM