Sunday, September 11, 2011

Horna - Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne (2005)

Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne is the fourth full-length album from the stalwarts of Finnish Black Metal, Horna. It was released in 2005, which was four years after the release of their previous album, the horrible Sudentaival. Following that trainwreck of a record, the band tossed Nazgul by the wayside and promptly replaced him with Corvus. Supposedly, their former vocalist was burnt out and unable to contribute anymore, though the real reason may be linked to the fact that he was a complete and total poser. Either way, despite the fact that Horna took so long to release another L.P. it cannot be said that the band was unproductive during these years. They continued to participate in split releases as well as the occasional E.P. Shatraug also managed to release Sargeist material during this time, so there was never really any hiatus, just a lack of a full record.

Being somewhat familiar with the band, I was surprised to find this in a used record store within a year of its release, appearing as though it had hardly been touched. Though I was not planning to buy anything, I simply could not allow this CD to sit on the shelf among so many rejects. Once I got home and tossed it in the stereo, night had fallen and only a few candles illuminated the room. The atmosphere was not expected, as this was dark, melancholy and even a bit unsettling.

Musically, it seemed that Shatraug had really found his own identity as a songwriter, in the years that preceded this release. Possibly as a result of the wretched path that Horna followed, briefly, or simply by expressing his ideas through the outlet known as Sargeist, he managed to really define his style of guitar playing and the way that he created melodies and structured the songs. My first impression was that this had more in common with Satanic Black Devotion, from Sargeist, than with Horna's earlier material. There are a lot of similar melodies and rhythms utilized, though there are quite enough differences to distinguish the two entities from one another.

"Vihan Tie" opens at full throttle, with blasting drums, fast tremolo-picked guitar riffs and hellishly raw vocals. The more folk-inspired rhythms make brief appearances before going back into the fast-paced Black Metal assault. The melodies are mournful and dark, with a miserable feeling that permeates your very spirit. The arrangment displays great skill and shows just how far the band has come since their previous album. And though the early material was good, it still bore many similarities to the Norwegian bands and did not truly possess its own identity. By now, Horna had been more firmly established and its sound was becoming well-defined.

The second song, "Musta Temppeli", is quite a different beast. It begins with slow, morbid riffs that consume you in utter blackness. As the song progresses, the speed picks up a bit and yet the aura remains as dark as ever, giving off eerie and unpleasant feelings that almost make you want to crawl out of your own skin. The track shifts back and forth, between the slow and fast riffs, leaving behind an overwhelming sensation of desolation and despair. You get the feeling that this was recorded in Hell, at certain points, as the atmosphere is just so hopeless and bereft of any light.

"Vala Pedolle" seems a little more upbeat, at the onset, with another riff that is somehow reminiscent of Sargeist. It is sorrowful but not completely oppressing. After a few minutes, a faster section emerges and the sombre feeling begins to grow, as a more epic melody arrives to slice your heart out of your chest. Other riffs are introduced, as the tempo changes again and again. At this point, one has to wonder how Corvus can continue with the style of vocals that he employs, since it sounds as if his throat is totally shredded. Clocking in at eight and a half minutes, this song takes its time in the dissection of the listener's soul, slowly dragging you through the depths of the abyss.

The overall vibe changes again as "Kirous Ja Malja" begins, with a more uplifting melody. As it goes along, the feeling sinks down into the realm of misery and an epic sense of negativity bleeds through. While not bad, this song does not stand out from the rest so much. "Saastainen Koste" follows the same pattern, in a sense, making good use of some old school riffing.,but not coming off as overly exceptional. However, by this point, it is noticeable that the band made the conscious decision to leave in bits before the songs actually start, giving a less formal impression.

The real highlight of the album is next, in the form of "Kuoleva Lupaus". This song is more mid-paced and filled with epic melodies of pure misery. The strained vocals add to this feeling, really helping to pull the listener down into the depths of suffering. The song is quite melodic, but still retains the same raw feeling that is present throughout the rest of the album. With each repetition of the mournful guitar riffs, one can better see the glow of the funeral torches, leading the way down a dark and bloodsoaked path. As the song speeds up, the tremolo melodies tear you into shreds, and the one final desire that you possess if for death to claim your miserable body and to allow your spirit to be free of such hell. It is only in the final moments that the realization becomes very clear: death is not the end of this journey, but only the transition to a deeper level of suffering.

"Zythifer" symbolizes this, in a way. It is an instrumental track that feels like a nightmare that has come to life, draining the energy from you and leaving nothing but a wretched pile of waste in its wake. The pace is rather slow, very appropriate for a descent into the black abyss. The melodies possess a dark beauty, the type that imbues the listener with an image of laying helplessly in a bloody heap, struggling to get up but only managing to fall face-first back into the crimson pool. There are faint glimmers of hope, but these are quickly stomped into oblivion and soon forgotten.

The album ends with "Kuilunhenki", which is less abysmal as the previous songs, yet still manages to breed darkness and a sense of tension. There are ephemeral passages that lessen the feeling of suffocation, but these catchy riffs cannot hope to undermine the soul-crushing atmosphere that dominates the majority of this record.

Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne is an album that shows Horna truly developing their style and breaking away from the strict adherence to their influences. It is dripping with a dark and melancholic atmosphere that really has the potential to affect the mind of the listener. In many ways, it exceeds all of their past efforts and should really be looked at as a new starting point for the band, as they became even more productive following this release. Seek this out and buy with confidence.