Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Horna - Hiidentorni (1997)

Hiidentorni marks the true beginning of Finland's masters of grim northern Black Metal, Horna. Originally released in 1997 as a cassette demo, limited to 150 copies, this recording was later reissued on CD and considered to be the band's debut album. What one can expect to find here is rather unremarkable Black Metal that displays a lot of influence from the Norwegian scene of the early-to-mid 90s. The music is solid, but is more interesting simply as a means to look into Horna's past and to see their development.

The production is raw and basic, with a dirty guitar tone that helps to add a sense of ugliness to the music. The drums are a little too high in the mix, as are the vocals of the shameless poser, Nazgul. Normally, I would say that the guitars need to be more prominent, yet many of the riffs are so generic that it does not really matter. The drumming and vocals drive the album along, at many points, rather than the riffs. If this is to be considered a demo, then the sound quality is pretty good. For an album, it is about average for the time period. And that should be taken into account as well; around this time, less and less bands were opting for a raw approach, so the fact that they even tried should earn them a few extra points.

The music, itself, is kind of bland. So few of the guitar melodies really stand out on their own; instead, they often serve only to fill the silence so that the vocals and drums have something to help them along. This can be forgiven, as the band was still in its infancy and went on to evolve into something quite unique. The songwriting owes a great deal to Norwegian bands such as Darkthrone and Gorgoroth, mixed with the worst of Sweden's output; i.e. Dark Funeral, Marduk, etc. Oddly, there does not seem to be any influence from their fellow Finns, Beherit or Archgoat. The riffs are not very memorable and the music lacks any real sense of atmosphere. The most annoying thing about the whole album is the over-the-top vocal performance by Nazgul. Much like Masse Broberg's work with Dark Funeral, this feeble hobbit adds in a lot of deeper, Death Metal vocals that have no place in this sort of music. He also spends a lot of time trying to imitate Varg's voice, from the early Burzum records, yet rather than sounding tormented he comes off as a little girl that has fallen down and scraped her knee. How Shatraug put up with this piece of trash for as long as he did is a mystery.

All in all, Hiidentorni is not a completely rotten album. It has its moments and, other than the poser doing vocals, it is quite decent for a debut effort. Horna's early years were a bit rough, but they eventually went on to develop their own identity and trademark sound. This particular album is mostly a matter of curiosity for those who wish to hear how the band started out. Otherwise, there is no real need to seek it out as it is completely derivative of other things and not the best thing that this Finnish band ever released.