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Review

Horna – Kuoleman Kirjo

Band: Horna
Album: Kuoleman Kirjo
Label: World Terror Committee
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Finland
Release Date: December 8, 2020
For Fans Of: Sargeist, Tsjuder, Urgehal

When talking about Finnish black metal there is one name that should immediately come to mind (after Beherit of course); Shatraug. The extremely prolific guitarist / songwriter, is the mastermind behind such acts as Necroslut, Finnentum, Mortualia, Vordr, Sargeist and his longest running project, Horna. Horna has been around since 1995 and their debut full-length Kohti yhdeksän nousua, is a certified Finnish classic and, while bands like Archgoat and Beherit were incorporating aspects of death metal into their sound, the debut helped define the sound of pure black metal in Finland. Throughout the years Horna’s sound has evolved and changed to incorporate more melodic sound, though the band has never been shy on aggression, making a sound that is more accessible has allowed the band to reach new heights of popularity outside of the strict black metal community. Now, 25 years into their highly influential career, Horna has returned with their 10th full length, and first in 5 years, Kuoleman Kirjo, which sees the band return to the more aggressive and straight forward sound that defined them in the 90’s. 

While I was expecting to enjoy Kuoleman Kirjo, as I generally enjoy most of what Horna has produced, I really expected to get more of the same with this album. The more melodic Horna sound was refreshing in the beginning but the band hasn’t really changed up their sound in some time making the sound feel stale, even if the quality never diminished. Additionally, the newer sound of Horna lacked distinction to Behexen, a project that Shatraug was in for many years. Kuoleman Kirjo, is a return to form and was an extremely welcomed surprise, easily the band’s best album in a long time. While I think it might not be the favorite album of fans of the bands latest output, it is exactly the sonic shift I have been hoping for over the past couple albums.

Kuoleman Kirjo, introduces a new rhythm section for Horna, which I think is the key factor in this reinvigorated sound. The riffs are outstanding and the new drummer, LRH, brings in some of the best drumming I have heard in black metal all year. The drums drive the aggression and push the songwriting to heights that I don’t think the band has ever reached before. These are easily some of the best songs that the band has ever written. They are simultaneously straightforward and subtle, while they are great initially, rewards from repeat listens are abundant. On my second and  third listens I started to notice drum fills and guitar flourishes that I missed the first time through.

This album, however, just misses the mark on being a truly great album. My first, and probably biggest, issue lies in the production. The drums and vocals are so high in the mix that they often drown out what the guitars are doing. The guitar playing is the best part of Horna, and for some reason Kuoleman Kirjo feels like it is intentionally removing the spotlight from Shatraug and Infection. They are not completely buried, but I would just have preferred them front and center. My other issue with the album is the length. If an album breaks the hour mark I feel that there should be a reason for it and I don’t know that there is one here. The songs are all very similar to one another in both sound and structure, making the album feel even longer than it actually is. Horna has a history of making punchy 35 to 50 minute records that feel highly intentional and unfortunately Kuoleman Kirjo feels like it could have been just a bit better with a heavier hand in the editing room. Overall, this is an enjoyable album and a pleasant surprise. I was expecting this to be just another decent Horna album that I never return to in favor of some of the band’s classics, but I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Kuoleman Kirjo is a much welcomed return to form and is a really good album that falls just short of being great.

Rating: 8 / 10

  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

Total Playing Time: 01:07:34

Click here to visit Horna’s bandcamp

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