Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Horna - Musta Kaipuu (2009)

Though it has the packaging and consistent writing of a full-length, Musta Kaipuu is not actually a new album, but rather a collection of tracks off vinyl and tape sources that were recorded around the time of Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne but not released on the CD version. There is nearly an hour of material here, so Horna fans should be able to dig deeply in. Though I certainly count myself as one of those fans (Horna stands alongside Impaled Nazarene and Barathrum as a favorite Finnish outfit of this sort), much of the material here on Musta Kaipuu is average at best, and I can hear why the band wisely chose not to include it on one of their previous full-lengths. Yet here it stands, and if you mine far enough into into the material you can find a few grim and disgusting bits like "Pohjanportti (Northgate)" or the lengthy "Marraskuussa (In November)".

This is raw black, done much like any other Horna recording of the past 16 years. No refinement necessary, no experimentation or progression, and no pop finish. Just hopelessness and malevolence caught in audio form, as true as it gets. By the mid-'oughts, the Finns were utilizing a lot of straight, slower to mid-paced driving chord patterns in place of the constant tremolo one expected from much of the scene (though they do speed it up on occasion), and in this way they certainly mirrored some of the earlier Darkthrone recordings which in turn had a direct influence from Hellhammer. The central riffs to tunes like "Piina (Misery)" could have just as well belonged to some grimy punk rock outfit, but Horna infuses them with moodier bridges and splices of haunting, steady metallic melody below the dismal din of the production. Often I would find myself involved with a particular riffing progression, only to become numb at its slightly excess repetition, and several of the tracks don't entirely justify their length, even if I enjoyed some of their constituent pieces.

The stripped, flayed flesh of its presentation does work in the disc's favor, because it's hard to imagine a more authentic and honest sound for this genre, which Horna have consistently clung to through their career. It might seem somewhat cruder than a few of their most recent full-lengths, but all of the instruments are clear enough, with the guitars and bass slightly overpowering the tinnier cymbals and the less booming double bass drums. The thick, decrepit rasp of the vocals is more or less what you'd expect, they've always had one of the most pure and savage deliveries in the field whether it was Nazgul, Corvus or the newer front man Spellgoth, though no one would accuse them of the style's innovation or evolution. Abusive, bloody barks resonate just above the level of the guitars and fit in resplendent contrast to even the most glorious passages like the airy pearls of melody that adorn "Unohdetut Kasvot, Unohdettu Ääni" (taken from the band's 2005 split with Tenebrae in Perpetuum).

Still, apart from the stylistic proximity this music bears to several of my favorite Horna records like Envaatnags... or the underrated Sotahuuto, I did not come away from this wholly satisfied. A lot of the riffs are mediocre, also-ran sorts and I never felt that same, spike-fisted, mounting excitement which I felt for the latter of the aforementioned full-lengths. The material here is internally consistent, while varied enough that I wouldn't exactly dub it 'boring', but there were certainly a number of times throughout in which I all too easily phased out of the experience. That said, if you're a diehard collector of the band, or an advocate for the purity of the Scandinavian black wrought by Darkthrone, Bathory, or earlier Mayhem, you won't be offended by what you hear on Mustai Kaipuu, and the songs are decent enough to be given a voice if weren't able to acquire them on earlier, rare issues (like the split 7" or limited double LP of Envaatnags... which the band considers the official version, including a number of these songs).

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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