Saturday, October 15, 2011

Horna - Ääniä Yössä (2006)

Ääniä Yössä is a concept album, dealing with the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the 14th century. Though it was released in September 2006, work began on this record as far back as 2004. Horna is an extremely productive band, at times, thanks to the overwhelming creativity of Shatraug (who also had time to release a handful of demos, splits and albums with his other band, Sargeist, during the same period). For whatever reason, he is joined only by Corvus on this, the band's fifth full-length. They had been using session drummers, but chose to program the drumming on this one, which hurts the record.

"Raiskattu saastaisessa valossa" begins with the sounds of disease-ridden rats, before picking up from where the most dismal moments of Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne left off. The mid-paced riffs carry a feeling of lifelessness and the extremely raw vocals add to the overall harshness. The drum programming detracts from the atmosphere, a bit, not sounding nearly organic enough. After a couple of minutes, this no longer matters, as there is a section that features only bleak guitar melodies and horrible screams. The open-arpeggio riffs are reminiscent of Burzum, though the sound here is far less clear. The pace picks up a bit, near the middle, but the riff is not exactly complimentary to those that preceded it. These two alternate, a couple times, before the initial theme returns. All in all, not a bad start but the song runs a little long and struggles to maintain a consistent vibe, at certain points.

The next song hearkens back to Horna's early days and seems more in line with a release such as Hiidentorni. Unlike the rest of the tracks on here, "Noutajan kutsu " is rather short and does not attempt to create an epic feeling. A darker riff is introduced, after a minute or so, but it is ephemeral and the pace picks up rather quickly. This song feels kind of average and does not do a whole lot to contribute to the morbid atmosphere than one would assume that the band was going for.

"Mustan surman rukous" starts with a slower riff that possesses an eerie feeling. The guitar melodies that follow are not as impressive. The song sort of drags, with no real inspiration. There is nothing unpleasant or annoying about the track, just that it seems more suitable as background music rather than something to be focused on. Under close scrutiny, it fails to live up to the listener's expectations.

The fact that this album was recorded in two separate sessions becomes clear with the title track. "Ääniä Yössä" sounds completely different from the rest of the material, possessing a distant quality. The first riff is reminiscent of Darkthrone, and the drumming pattern is much faster to match this. Of course, the production is so weak that the song comes across like something heard in a dream. Some open chords are interspersed with the main tremolo melody, giving it an otherworldly atmosphere. Listening to this, you get the sense of falling into a dream that soon turns into a horrifying nightmare. All around you, visions of torture and suffering, as the dreadful notion creeps into your mind that this shall be your fate as well. Waves of misery and anguish pour over you, as you are soon swept away by a river of sorrow and doom. Those damned waters threaten to swallow you forever, as another melancholic tremolo riff accompanies tormented howls that echo within your being. With each new melody, the darkness becomes ever more impenetrable. A woeful strain rises from the utter blackness, woeful in character, extinguishing whatever hope that remains.Despite the obvious similarities with old Darkthrone riffs, the arrangement is well-done and the repetition is carried out in such a way that the introduction of each new piece means something and helps build to the final climatic melody.

Ääniä Yössä would be a rather disappointing release, if not for the 21-minute long title track. In a sense, this album is like Venom's At War With Satan, in that one lengthy song really dominates the album and serves as the centerpiece. Though it is strange for a full-length to feature such a noticeable difference in production, among the tracks, it actually works in this case. While it is not as solid, all the way through, this album is certainly worth hearing for the final track, alone.