Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Horna - Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua (1998)

Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua is the first official full-length from Finland's Black Metal horde, Horna. It was released in 1998 by Solistitium Records, limited to 1500 copies. At this point in their development, the band had only existed for a few years. Enough time had passed that they were skilled as musicians, but the songwriting was not very distinctive. It would take some time before Shatraug created the signature style that he was later known for.

Musically, the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 90s seems to have been the primary influence, as opposed to Finnish bands like Beherit, Archgoat or Impaled Nazarene. All of the instruments are quite clear, compared to those whose style they were attempting to emulate. After a brief intro, "Örkkivuorilta" erupts from the depths of hell with aggressive riffs and vicious vocals. The guitars remind of Satyricon's Nemesis Divina album. The more intense thrash bits fade away near the middle to allow a haunting melody to take hold, before returning to end the song in rather violent fashion. "Imperial Devastation" moves between mid-paced tremolo melodies and a riff that calls to mind something from "Thorns of Crimson Death" from Dissection. The middle of the song speeds up, with vocals that are overdubbed with high and low, with riffs that are reminiscent of Dark Funeral.

It must be said that while Horna certainly wore their influences on their sleeve, so to say, the songs are very well-constructed. "White Aura Buried in Ashes" displays the band's skill in arrangement, moving from intense, fast-paced riffs and hellish vocals to a rather strange section that produces somewhat of a haunting effect. Around the 3:40 mark, the tempo changes and a clean voice emerges, similar to Enslved's "I Lenker til Ragnarok", producing an absolutely haunting effect, accentuated by the guitar riff and some faint keyboard in the background. The riff hints at the style Shatraug would later build upon. That said, "Sword of Darkness" and "Sormus ja Silmä" just bleed out the name Gorgoroth in the Infernus-like tremolo melodies that are found in each, and one cannot deny the similarities between the latter and "Sorg" from Antichrist. Nazgul's vocal style is not far off from that of Hat or Pest, so it suits the music even moreso. Regarding these songs, the voice is much dryer and more strained than usual which adds to the darker atmosphere. For some reason, there is a re-recorded version of "Kun lyömme Jumalan kodin liekkeihin" from Hiidentorni that fades in from the latter and is unlisted.

Kohti Yhdeksän Nousua is a very solid record and shows more overall consistency than Horna's prior output. Despite a lack of originality, the songwriting is very cohesive an there are a lot of memorable moments to be found. By 1998, most of the band's musical idols in Norway had fallen, so it was certainly up to someone to pick up the torch and to keep it burning. In that respect, Horna did a very good job with their debut album and would go on to create some immensely dark recordings throughout the years. If you ever run across this, be sure to pick it up. It will definitely appeal to those with a taste for mid-90's Black Metal.