Thursday, June 21, 2012

Horna - Perimä Vihassa Ja Verikostossa (1999)

Horna is a band known for being exceedingly productive. Over the years, the number of mini-albums and split releases, filling the gaps between proper full-length recordings, has gone beyond the output of many bands with three times the tenure. The Perimä Vihassa Ja Verikostossa E.P. was one of the earliest such efforts, released by Oskorei Records in May 1999. This particular collection of songs came near the end of the band's first phase and is far superior to the L.P. that followed.

The early years of Horna saw a band that had not yet, fully, come into its own. While there is no doubting the high quality of their records, they were often highly derivative of some of their contemporaries or, more frequently, bearing a strong resemblance to the classic albums of the Norwegian Black Metal scene. Shatraug's songwriting bordered on genius, at times, but was still held back by conforming to the trends of the day (one example being the random use of clean vocals on the previous full-length). Only after finding his true musical voice through the outlet afforded to him by the early Sargeist material did he truly mature as a songwriter with his own unique style, somewhat that soon bled into Horna as well.

Perimä Vihassa Ja Verikostossa is a very solid release, and much preferable to the abomination that is Sudentaival. The spirit is still more Norwegian than Finnish, at times. One is reminded of bands such as early Emperor, Satyricon and Enslaved (especially on “Haudanusva”), throughout the five tracks that comprise this E.P. The use of keyboards, however minimal, only strengthens this effect. The songs are very dynamic, for the most part, with varying paces found in each composition. Shatraug's trademark style can be noticed, from time to time, though still mixed with Nordic influences. Despite this, the music that is presented here does well for itself, to such an extent that songs like “Verikammari” are still played live to this day. It may be the standout track, if nothing else than for the morbid feeling of doom that it conveys. From slow, creeping riffs to mid-paced sections reminiscent of old Bathory, to fast-paced parts that sound like something ripped from Transilvanian Hunger, this tune encapsulates the early period of Horna's career, very well. That is not to say that this E.P. is defined by this song, alone. Every one, from “A Ring to Rule” to “Ghash Inras” leaves its mark and all of them are quite memorable from the very first listen.

The production is not as over-the-top and slick as Sudentaival, yet it is nowhere near as grim as the typical sound of the band's later output. It is somewhat thick and full, with the guitars possessing a decent amount of power and serving as the true focus. Nazgul's vocals are a little buried, but not anywhere near as much as can be found on Hiidentorni, at times. The overall sound-quality is probably a bit more healthy than most of the band's other releases, in that turning the volume on high does not result in hours of ringing in one's ears, afterward.

This should please any Horna fan, and would not be a bad starting point for those only somewhat familiar with Finnish (or Norwegian, for that matter) Black Metal. If you can get your hands on Perimä Vihassa Ja Verikostossa, one way or another, do so. For those that ignore limited releases or only go for full-length records, you are definitely missing out. While many bands might phone it in for split releases and the like, Horna is nearly always consistent, regardless of the format. Buy with confidence.