Thursday, November 2, 2006

Horna - Haudankylmyyden Mailla (1999)

Horna's second full-length album, Haudankylmyyden Mailla, was released by Solistitium Records in 1999 and limited to 1500 copies. Though hailing from Finland, the music on here sounds very similar to the output of the Norwegian Black Metal bands, several years earlier. This record draws a lot of inspiration from early Darkthrone and Gorgoroth, in particular, thus it was well-received at a time when many of the bands that headed up the Second Wave had moved on to something else.

The album begins with a very strange intro, sounding like something from a horror movie (or, perhaps, a science fiction film). The feeling it conveys is rather sorrowful, however, so it does serve some purpose in putting the listener in a negative state of mind.

"Yhdeksän Yö" starts out with a bass line that carries on the feeling of dread, along with the sparse drum work. Moments later, the vocals come in, overdubbed with high and low, soon joined by the guitar. The mid-paced riff possesses a feeling of doom and works very well to create an atmosphere of hellish darkness. Nazgul gives on of the best performances of his career, sounding more intense than at any other point. After a few minutes, the music speeds up and one can hear the Gorgoroth influence, quite easily. The guitar melodies are very memorable, though the production makes it difficult to experience them in the proper manner, as the guitars seem to be buried in the mix. This becomes much more noticeable during the fast parts, as the drums really begin to have an oppressive effect on the rest. The riffs are gloomy and imbue the listener with images of a foggy graveyard, late at night.

The next song, "...Jeesuksen Verestä ", skips past all of the introductory riffs and gets right into the fast tremolo-picked melodies and blast beats, while the vocalist shrieks over the maelstrom of hatred and evil that is unfolding. This is a rather straightforward track, maintaining a fast pace throughout. Again, the only complaint is that the riffs are buried beneath the rest, though there are a couple parts where only the guitar remains, while the rest falls silent.

"Ylle Kuihtuneen Ajan Ajatusten" is a longer track that features a chaotic, Slayer-inspired lead solo, at the beginning. Unfortunately, it is so low in the mix that one hardly notices it. After a couple minutes of high-speed attack, the atmosphere darkens as the pace slows down. The riffs are reminiscent of Burzum, creating a miserable feeling. Nazgul's whispers add to the eerie vibe and a subtle bit of synth is also utilized. Though the riffs change, the pace remains rather slow for the remainder of the song, which never quite capitalizes on the brilliant middle section.

Things pick back up with "Kun Jumalan Sydän On Murskattu", which is another fast-paced song that hearkens back to early Darkthrone. As with the rest of the album, the guitar tone is reminiscent of Under a Funeral Moon and one can hear influences from that album, as well as Gorgoroth's Pentagram. The best riff of the whole song does not appear until near the end, and really could have been expanded upon. One gets the impression that some of this material was rushed.

"(Kaiken) Kristityn Kuolema" is, more or less, filler. It is another fast song with generic riffs and a bit of synth, at times. With a running time of over an hour, this track really could have been left off. Not every riff needs to be recorded and presented, especially when they are pointless as the ones here.

"Viimeinen Sielu Jumalan Valosta" is a mid-paced track that evokes a bit more or a morbid feeling, similar to the first song. In fact, it is a little too similar, at times, and could have been left on the shelf until it could be further developed.

The title track is one of the shortest on here, coming in at under four minutes, but features much better guitar melodies than the previous few songs. This one maintains a faster pace, though sort of relaxed when compared to other tracks on here. The drumming is a little overactive, at times, taking away from the riffs.

"Hymni Tuomiopäivänä" starts out with a frenetic tempo and more overdubbed vocals, with high and low. This sort of thing is rather annoying in Black Metal and should be kept to a minimum. The music is inconsistent, and includes some thrash riffs that do not fit in very well, along with mid-paced riffs that go nowhere. This one makes at least three tracks that are pure filler.

"Peikkomaille" is another song that sounds under-developed and a little too derivative of the Norwegian bands, without enough original thought put into the songwriting and arrangement. It is not terrible, but seems as if not enough time went into it, prior to the album being recorded.

The nine-minute track, "Epilogi", is utterly worthless and does not even add to the atmosphere of the record. This one is nothing more than filler, as well. That seems to be the trend with this album.

"Kunnia Saatanalle" is the final song and, while not terribly superior to the rest, it maintains a consistent feel and features some really decent guitar melodies. At just under three minutes, there is hardly enough time for it to get boring, which may work to its benefit. The overdubbed vocals are out of place, but the solid riffs make up for it.

While Haudankylmyyden Mailla should appeal to most Horna fans, it really would have been better off if it had been released as an E.P. Several of the songs are either filler or just a little less developed than they should have been. That said, even at its worst, this is not a bad album. It just fails to realize the potential that it hints at. Anyone into raw Black Metal in the Norwegian style should pick this up.