Reviewed: June 2020
Released: 2020, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Horisont’s last album, About Time, was an absolute belter, and ended up among the best albums of 2017 with its genuine and effective retro rock feel.
So understandably, expectations are high for 2020’s follow-up, Sudden Death. It comes as a bit of a surprise then, that the band decides to shift gears and take a somewhat different approach this time around.
It still sounds distinctly Horisont, it’s still drawing from that well of classic rock influence and making something that sounds heartfelt. But where About Time was dominated by hard rock’s lively rhythms and very direct satisfaction, on Sudden Death the band takes a more mellow, laid-back approach. The progressive rock side comes much more to the fore, with longer songs, more prominent piano/keyboard (and even some saxophone on “Into the Night”) and a generally more relaxed vibe throughout.
This isn’t to say that the album lacks energy or force though. Songs like “Pushin’ the Line”, “Sail On” and “Runaway” would feel smoothly at home on About Time. They’ll get the head bobbing and the toes tapping, especially “Runaway” with its faster tempo. But this time they sit among smoother, more chilled out tracks like “Gråa Dagar”, rising ballad “Hold On” and the almost Beatles-esque “Revolution”. The album as a whole has a bright, vibrant feel, full of life and joy. Epic album closer “Archaeopteryx in Flight” is a true highlight, an eight minute jazzy, trippy journey into the stratosphere and beyond.
Even with the sad passing of vocalist Axel’s best friend serving as part of the emotional inspiration, the album still manages to focus on uplifting themes and messages, encouraging the listener to process and come out of sad times all the stronger. The album as a whole could be taken as a cathartic form of recovery from loss, all the more powerful for its outwardly up-beat tone.
While Sudden Death is a shift into a more relaxed, often more proggy sound, it isn’t an abandonment of Horisont’s approach. The core of quality retro rock is still here, as are the other ingredients, like Axel’s delightful crooning vocals and that distinctly 70s tone; the ingredients largely remain the same, but proportions are changed and a few new flavours added. How well this works for each listener will ultimately come down to personal preference, or even just mood. Some will prefer the more immediate rewards of About Time, while others will love the good times vibes presented on Sudden Death. Horisont remain masters of bringing the 70s sound to life, and that’s the important thing.