REVIEW: Horna – Kuoleman Kirjo

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Throughout approximately 25 years of creating chaotic ferocious sounds, HORNA has always been consistent in incorporating traditional Finnish black metal elements. The almighty founding member Shatraug has been involved in various associated acts to note, including SARGEIST and NECROSLUT. In addition to their prolific track record, HORNA also used to feature the renowned Nazgul Von Armageddon of SATANIC WARMASTER fame back in their early materials. So far, they have released over thirty records including demos, EPs, splits, and LPs, and now, after five years, they are back on releasing an LP, which is the impeccable “Kuoleman Kirjo” — released under the label World Terror Committee. This new album of theirs has distinct resemblances to several ‘90s black metal acts such as EMPEROR and SATYRICON to the point where when you listen to it, it almost sounds like a ‘90s black metal revival. 

Compared to their previous full-length, “Hengen Tulot” (2015), which is rather strong on reverb and presents raw production, “Kuoleman Kirjo” is cleaner, but more complex on rhythms. The belligerent incantations that vocalist Spellgoth (also of TROLLHEIMS GROTT and formerly of TURMION KÄTILÖT fame) presented on this album invite the listeners to a murky soundscape that appears to be eclectic. Occultist vibes are also tremendously prominent on this album, helping build a consistent dark imagery to HORNA’s branding. 

The album opens with the fast-paced “Saatanan Viha,” which has bewitchingly crafted arrangements on bass and drums. “Elegia” possesses both tranquil interlude and blast beat section. Meanwhile “Uneton” is faster in pace and embodies second wave black metal elements. “Sydänkuoro” has distinct hardcore punk influence and is invigoratingly atmospheric. “Elävänä, kuolleena” is like a profound reminiscence of HORNA’s earlier material, while “Kärsimysten katedraali,” which can be translated as “Cathedral of Suffering,” possesses a title that reminds me of SARGEIST’s “Empire of Suffering.” It is an intricate track that brings the listeners’ souls into a deep dark space of menace. “Haudattujen tähtien yönä” features a group clean vocal in unison and a Viking metal/power metal-esque ambience.  “Rakas kuu” starts off with gnarly drummings and an enchanting growl, and then presents a string-bending riff in the middle. “Unohtumaton” gives a crust-punk kind of feel while also keeping its black metal identity intact. There are also catchier tracks like “Mustat vuodet” and “Pyhä kuolema” that appear to be rather modern compared to the other tracks that basically have strong inclination towards old school black metal. “Veriuhri” has a distinctive tremolo picking lead guitar line and it’s impressive. The profundity of the closing track “Ola minut vastaan” is intensified by the multi-tracked vocals.

While several black metal names from Finland incorporate other various elements when it comes to their music (such as IMPALED NAZARENE with their thrash metal and grindcore tendencies and BEHERIT with their war metal tendencies), HORNA is one of the Finnish black metal acts that remain committed in incorporating black metal elements to their sounds. “Kuoleman kirjo” would be suitable for those of you who are looking for a release to existentially contemplate to. It’s astonishingly deep, but doesn’t try too hard to sound pretentious, and that’s great. Overall, it is a great album if you want to revisit the fond memories of old school black metal. It would also be the right record for those who often find themselves fascinated by the dichotomy of life and death. 

Written by Ralka Skjerseth

Tracklist

  1. Saatanan viha
  2. Elegia
  3. Uneton
  4. Sydänkuoro
  5. Elävänä, kuolleena
  6. Kärsimysten katedraali
  7. Haudattujen tähtien yönä
  8. Rakas kuu
  9. Unohtumaton
  10. Mustat vuodet
  11. Pyhä kuolema
  12. Veriuhri
  13. Ota minut vastaan

Lineup

Shatraug – Guitars, songwriting, lyrics

Infection – Guitars, songwriting

Spellgoth – Vocals

LRH – Drums

VnoM – Bass

Label

World Terror Committee

Links

Bandcamp

Spotify

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