Part of that is the improved production, which is less punchy and digital feeling as their first album which went more for that Necroticism vibe. This is more balanced and organic, and works well with the denser melodic chord patterns. I don't think the lead tone on this album is that great, especially for the spacey harmonies they're infusing, but it's good enough to get the gist of their ideas, and there are a LOT of them, because Golem is easily one of the riffiest death metal bands to never ascend the throne, possibly because of that derivative factor which hovered over them for a few years. And it still does pop up from time to time, like the chugging breaks in "Departure" which might remind you of a certain tune from Heartwork, or the raucous vocal delivery, but where the Germans excel here is when they go full on with some of the most melodic material like "The Shortening of the Way" or "Heretics", the sorts of tunes that instantly embed into my memory.
There were definitely other great bands that took the Carcass stylings and ran with them, Exhumed and Impaled from here in the States come to mind, but Golem almost represented a potential strain of melodic death metal that might have thrived if more bands had gone that route rather than aping the In Flames, At the Gates and Dark Tranquillity. The 2nd Horizon is a really great example of that potential development, and strong enough to get this band to the next level, but somehow that just wasn't about to happen...maybe it's the cover art, maybe groups like Soilwork and Darkane were just doing more exciting material (they were), but this one definitely holds up even more than the debut.
Verdict: Win [8.25/10]