Sunday, July 8, 2012

Horna - Viha Ja Viikate (2003)

The period between 2002 and 2004 witnessed what could be called the rebirth of Horna, in a somewhat different form. It was around this time that Shatraug's songwriting abilities really began to take on a character of its own and the addition of Corvus, on vocals, added yet another integral piece. Musically, Horna continued to offer up grim slabs of raw Black Metal, yet it possessed a different feel than that of the band's earlier efforts. During the years where the band's sound was being redefined, several splits and mini-albums were issued, as Shatraug fine-tuned everything in preparation for the forthcoming full-length. Released in September 2003, through Woodcut Records, Viha Ja Viikate was the second E.P. to arise since Sudentaival.

The material on this release is very lo-fi and has sort of a necro feel, yet is more dynamic than some of Horna's influences. Though there are more than a few riff changes throughout the tracks, from blast beats to mid-paced sections, the dark vibe is always present. Songs like “Viha Ja Viikate” and “Ars Laternarum” have moments that hint at some kind of epic feeling, yet there is a down-tempo atmosphere that hangs over everything. This atmosphere of gloom is most noticeable on “Mustasiipinen”, which features a handful of sombre tremolo melodies. This is accentuated by the miserable vocals of Corvus, particularly as the song slows down a bit. There is a sense of desperation that comes through, imbuing the listener with a sense of hopelessness. The final track counteracts this a little, offering up a solid dose of '80s-inspired Black Metal that disrupts the flow to an extent, yet still maintains the same old school feeling that is present during the other songs. Why Horna decided to cover an old Carpathian Forest tune is unknown, but it is done well enough.

Production-wise, this represents a step in the right direction. This sounds much more raw and underground than the band's 2001 L.P. Still, Horna does not make the error of going too far and ruining any chance that the music has to make an impression by over-doing the necro sound, either. The guitars have a rough edge and a decent amount of fuzz, and are rather high in the mix. Not that the bass and drums are totally negligible, but the prime focus of this rests on the riffs and the vocal performance given by Corvus. Of course, with Black Metal, the drumming is not important anyway and is just there to keep time rather than to take over. Too many bands forget that it is all about the guitar melodies, rather than the rhythmic pounding that countless bands rely on.

Viha Ja Viikate is a worthwhile release and certainly belongs in the collection of any Horna fan, as well as anyone into raw Black Metal, in general. While it may be too bad that this is an E.P. instead of a full-length, the very minor inconsistencies prove that it was wise to wait a while longer before moving ahead with such a project. Pick this up if you can.