Monday, 4 January 2016

The Wonderful and Weird: The Horn

Band: The Horn
Album: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead Volume Fifteen
Released: 1st January 2016
Location: Australia
Style: Pure Egyptian Occult Space Metal (self-dubbed)
For fans of: Septicflesh, Darkspace, Elysian Blaze, Gnaw Their Tongues, Leviathan, Mare Cognitum

The Horn - The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead Volume Fifteen

The Horn is an eccentric and mysterious industrial black metal project based in Australia, self-dubbed by sole member ‘A D MacHine’ as ‘Pure Ancient Occult Egyptian Space Metal’, which seeks to set the whole of the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead to music. The Horn’s fifteenth album – released this week and, unexpectedly, titled ‘The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead Volume Fifteen’ – is engrossing in its mix of choral and orchestral ambience and pummeling unorthodox black metal. This is a well thought out amalgamation of atmosphere, drone and doomy symphony without losing hold of an extrememetal dissonance.
The opening track – ‘Spell 9’ – opens with instantaneous black metal fury, a full and powerful production gut punches from the very get go. This is not indicative of the album as a whole - following this jarring introduction we're sent into the weird world of The Horn where two worlds collide: the ancient mystical essence of ancient Egypt and the desolate unknowing void of space.

The vocals are of particular interest and vary throughout: wispy, croaked, strangled snarls float and sting and regularly seep into a whirling cacophony; spoken vocals modulated and godlike break through and deep guttural vocals rumble.  Lyrics taken from R.O. Faulkner’s translations of the Book of the Dead ruminate throughout – esoteric incantations, mystical and magical spells of the afterlife and ritualistic chanting repeats throughout. 

The soundscape is intricately composed; all sorts of percussive instrumentation has been used to great effect: mandolins, spring drums, bells, shakers, flutes, arghuls and violins seep into a vast extreme metal soundscape that attempts to foot itself in both western and eastern musical traditions which reminds me of more recent Septicflesh, although I find this less forced and more subtle in its implementation. 

The album’s strongest track – ‘Hymn to Osiris – is a mesmeric combination of atmospheric ambience and extreme metal. Following two minutes of ambient calm, evil breaks through again; interesting riffage and driving drums explode into action as orchestral and choir drones flow in the background. At seven minutes all comes to a standstill as schizophrenic stringed sounds fluctuate until earthquake heavy funeral-doom riffs and middle-to-high pitched wispy snarls along with spoken word readings homages to Osiris and the gates of the netherworld layer to end the song: it is a genuinely exciting and epic, reminding me of the expansive and immersive music of bands like Spectral Lore, Mare Cognitum and Progenie Terrestre Pura. There’s a lot to take in throughout the album and it would be wrong to knock such an ambition and thoughtfulness, but at times I wish there was more of a focus on the black metal side of things over the the more long winded drone-ambient passages - with a one hour and four minute run length it can be difficult to be attentive for so long - but this is a minor nit-pick and perhaps, for an album of this scope, such a change in focus would detract from the atmosphere the album creates as a whole.

This is an incredibly inventive album that tries to create something that runs against the grain. Listen to this with good headphones or speakers and appreciate each little nuance and progression that adds to the creation of an unsettling, mysterious atmosphere.

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