Review: Horna – Hengen Tulet
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).
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!)