Reviewed: December, 2020
Released: December 8, 2020 W.T.C. Productions
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
Finland’s Horna are one of the most prolific bands in black metal. Since exploding on the scene in 1994, when founder and main stay Shatraug was only sixteen years old, they have an impressive 35 releases categorized as either EPs, Splits, and compilations as well as they will be releasing their tenth full length, KUOLEMAN KIRJO on December 8. Not only are they prolific, but they are quite consistent. I have yet to review their entire catalog, but everything I have heard tells me one thing, they play quality, uncompromising black metal. With all of this, it is no wonder their name is synonymous with Finnish black metal.
Loosely translated to The Spectrum of Death, KUOLEMAN KIRJO is an hour an ten minutes of unrelenting black metal. That is a long run time for a black metal album, even if divided among thirteen songs. That is taking a mighty big chance. They have done it before back in 1999 on HAUDANKLMYYDEN MAILLA, their sophomore full length and it paid off. Will it work this time around? The short answer, yes. However, there are many reasons why this album works even taking the long run time out of the picture. For one, the production is top notch. Everything is crisp and clear; an each instrument and the vocals are evenly mixed adding a lot of atmosphere to this album. Songs like the album opener “Saatanan viha” or “Elävänä, kuolleena” are prime examples of how they can add so many dimensions to a song. Crushing brutality intertwined with beautiful melodies can really be the only way to describe the music. Listening through headphones, the experience is even better because of the production.
“Haudattujen tähtien yönä” starts off with some cool clean vocals over melodic tremolos, this song is mid paced and melodic throughout almost reminding me of some pagan black metal. And that takes me to the next reason why this album works, the songwriting. The songs all have an epic feel to them. The riffs are infectious, with some serious tremolo riffing throughout this album. “Mustat vuodet” is a prime example of how effective the tremolo riffs are, especially how they intersperse them strategically throughout the song. Following that is “Pyhä kuolema” which leads me to the third and final reason why the long run time can work, the order of the songs. Instead of working on a theme throughout, they instead mix it up to keep things interesting. Most bands that record long albums tend to stick to a theme throughout and let the epic nature of the theme hold up the long run time, letting each song flow into the other as one unit. Instead, KUOLEMAN KIRJO is a collection of great songs that have more than enough layers to keep you interested for that hour and ten minutes.
As I have said before, Horna plays unrelenting black metal and there has not been an album by them that I have heard that has been anything less than stellar. KUOLEMAN KIRJO is no exception. To be able to continue to release quality album after quality album, along with multiple splits and EPs, is no small feat. This album goes to show that Horna are not only still very relevant in the Finnish black metal scene, they are still on top of the heap.