You can’t call yourself a proper prog band until you’ve attempted those two most indulgent of propositions… the ten minute long epic and the concept album. For their fourth album, Swedish retro rockers Horisont haven’t just attempted both, they’re brazenly flaunting it, kicking the Rise Above released album off with ten minute prog opera and title track ‘Odyssey’.
“The whole thing started when we were joking around saying “Let’s do a 10 minute song”,” laughs vocalist and keys man Axel Söderberg. “We really did think of it as a joke at first. But then we came round to it saying “You know, we should really do that, it’d be really cool”. So we proceeded from there, building the other songs around the same subject and it came together. It’s one of those songs where a 10 minute song doesn’t feel like a 10 minute song, so, then it’s a good 10 minute song!!”
And what a subject it is, too. Raiding such luminiferous source materials as an entire book-shelf full of sci-fi paperbacks, and a life-time worth of Blakes 7 and Buck Rogers ideals, via a touch of War of the Worlds, the story of Odyssey “concerns a supreme race of mysterious beings” confirms bassist Magnus Delborg. Of course it does… but just what do we encounter these beings doing? “(they) experiment with the creation of life and start to populate planets around the universe. This is the story of one of those planets…”
“The main theme of the album is Magnus our bass players story,” affirms Söderberg before explaining how the title track served to feed the rest of the album. “When we started with this 10 minute song, that started with me buying a synthesizer and trying out the main riff and finding something that the song was going to evolve from.”
The main keyboard lick reminds me of Magnum (a band I never thought I’d reference when talking a new release in 2015). “Ha, yes, I like them. Well, the first album only” grins the voice of Horisont, before diverging more about his additional input to the album; synthesizers… “I’ve always played the keyboards and we never got around to using them live before. So now I’ve bought myself 3 proper keyboards, so it’s going to be nice trying it out live. I can’t drink as much, anymore, though…” he muses on his new live responsibilities with just a pang of regret in his voice.
The introduction of synthesizers has rounded out the Horisont sound, like the pair of Doc Martens that have finally stopped giving you blisters and now fit like a foot-glove. “I’m not really sure why it works better now”, is the shrugged reply. “It’s like, this album is more a mix of what we actually listen to. I listen to lots of Kansas. Not the “proper” prog groups like Yes or that, but more AOR prog-ish stuff is really what I like. So that shows on this album more than the others. We’re into UFO and Black Sabbath as well, obviously, but this one really reflects what we listen to.”
“We probably would have liked to have played this stuff before, but I don’t think we had the skills back then!”
It’s been a natural evolution, and a return to the music that is in their hearts. “We’ve played this kind of music for ten years now and genres and new kinds of music they come and go, but the classic rock sound is something that will always come back. Everyone that listens to rock in general always goes back to the classic bands.”
The amiable frontman gets sheepish about his love of the retro… “I started out singing in a Misfits and Danzig covers band! That was what pulled me into playing music, made me realize I could play music and it sounded OK! Then I proceeded from there, so I guess that’s my musical background – punk and hard rock.
“I’m actually really not that good at listening to new bands, because there’s no other bands like the classic bands. I do try to check out newer bands, but it’s been a long time since I bought a new record, put it that way.”
Not content with breaking new ground with Odyssey, the upcoming tour will also see the band pushing their horizon(t)s (#SorryNotSorry). “Yes, I just came back from practicing vocal harmonies… and we’ve got a lot of work, as that’s something we’ve never done before! We’re rehearsing hard for the tour and realizing how much work we have to do in learning the songs!”
But it seems like it is hard work that’s paying off. There seems to be a genuine buzz and interest in Odyssey and the bands fourth, most organic and natural album, appears to be the one set to raise their profile all across the board.
“I can feel it; it all feels promising. Yes, it’s looking good! We had more time writing and recording this album than before. All the other albums were a bit stressful, this one, though, just feels really good.”
Odyssey will be released on Friday 18th September via Rise Above Records
WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY