Monday, November 6, 2006

Horna - Sudentaival (2001)

Sudentaival is the third full-length album from Horna. Released in March 2001 on Woodcut Records, this record sticks out like a sore thumb, when compared to the rest of the band's discography. For a band that has long been one of the pillars of the Finnish Black Metal scene, they made a severe misstep with this release. Thankfully, they learned from their mistakes, down the line.

Musically, this is not terribly far from the material that was heard on Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua. The band took several years to really find their own style, and this album is a product of that confusion. At this point, Shatraug's brilliant guitar melodies had not yet taken shape, so there is a mixture of generic ideas and some that demonstrate a shred of the potential that would soon be realized. The atmosphere of this L.P. is anything but dark or evil, which is a shift from the previous outing. While Haudankylmyyden Mailla was plagued by an overall sense of unoriginality, there was definitely an effort to pay home to the early-'90s Norwegian scene. Sudentaival seems to have been reaching out to more modern tastes, at the time. The overall approach sounds more in line with later Marduk, as the vocals and percussion dominate the sound. The blast beats seem to crush any attempt that the guitars make at creating a dark feeling.

The production is as much at fault for this atrocity as the songwriting. It sounds extremely fake and plastic, suffering from a sound that is similar to what one would expect from Abyss Studio. This gives off the impression of being horribly-produced Death Metal, moreso than having anything to do with Black Metal. The drums are way to high in the mix and the guitars are buried underneath everything else, when it should have been the other way around. I recall the confusion when I first put this CD in, as I thought I had been sent the wrong album. While the band's earlier efforts were all slightly too modern-sounding for my taste, this one crossed a line that no one can deny. The fact of the matter is that Sudentaival is not completely worthless, musically, but the horrible sound makes it nearly impossible to enjoy. Only during the slower sections are the sombre guitar melodies allowed to breathe. It is a shame as, with a more underground production and a little more work on the material, itself, this could have been a decent album.

Sudentaival is the one Horna record that I would not recommend. The few positives that it possesses are not really worth enduring the rest. Obviously, this did not have the greatest effect for the band members, either, as Nazgul left to start Satanic Warmaster and Shatraug began putting most of his energy into Sargeist, not long after this. After developing his style a bit more, with that project, the following Horna releases began to really take on an identity of their own. My advice would be to skip this and move on to Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne.