By now we all know what to expect from Finnish sinistras Horna, right? Frozen wastelands due in no small part to a raw, hissing production? Frenetic blastbeats?? Scything tremolo riffs that slice you to pieces??? You’d be bang on, of course.
There’s something a little different, however, within ninth full-length Hengen tulet (World Terror Committee): the Crust groove during the mid-section of opener ‘Amadriada’, for starters, having a ‘B-movie’ Shock ‘n’ Roll feel about it. Spellgoth’s vocal, usually rich with emphysemic qualities that tear my own breath away, here seems much spikier: just as hostile as we’ve come to know, but given a tinnier edge which evokes images of burst larynxes. The ensuing ‘Ajan Päättyessä’ is at times furious, a Punk edge evident in verses with drums high in the mix, the staggering pace of the chorus only met by the sheer conflagration of every element exploding in nefarious union.
Whilst everything here paints those familiarly spectral sketches of icy Scandinavian fjords in the black of night, variation exists in spades: the brooding, almost Doom-like pace of ‘Nekromantia’ is a sinister delight; Spellgoth’s steadily growing, ramshackle roar terrifying the senses. The Trad sections of ‘Tämä Maalima Odottaa’, meanwhile, break up periods of utter bludgeon where careering rhythm threatens to crash into a wall but never does. That ‘on the brink’ accuracy links with lightning drama during the at times mournful, bleak ‘Ikuisuuden Kynnyksellä’: early segments of wonderfully controlled yet flashing speed infuse with shimmering leads toward a second movement of fearful melancholy, and it’s in moments like these where Horna displays true songcraft.
There are dull moments, such as the plodding ‘Sodan Roihu’ and the tempo-changing but largely uninspired ‘Saatanalle’. There’s also a danger that true darkhearts may find the overall product a little jaded but the album’s high points such as the despondent, doleful crush of ‘Hurmos’ with its amazingly powerful, rasped vocal, and the bloodthirsty, ravaging yet intriguing closer ‘Profeettasi’, more than overshadow this threat.