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Horizon Ablaze proved to be interesting based on description alone. Three members, Norway and extreme metal: I was sold immediately. On 16 February, this group of three has released a new album, The Weight of a Thousand Suns. Now, this title does sound very poetic and maybe more along the likes of a good prog album, but when I read that an ex-member of 1349 had joined the band, I couldn’t help but think I was about to hear some scary things coming from my speakers. Let me spoil it for you right now: that didn’t happen, but I did find one of the best albums of 2018.
Black metal with variation
The albums starts out with Sleep Is the Brother of Death. This song doesn’t contain a soft, rising intro, but immediately crashes through your speakers (you have been warned). It is not just angry banging on drums; instead, it’s very noticeable from the start that it’s pretty melodic and symphonic. Verses with depressing lyrics alternate with pleasantly light and modern sounding instrumental parts. Through the entire album I hear parts that take me back to the better albums of Haste the Day, or maybe a bit of Parkway Drive? I can’t really put my finger on it, since my knowledge of modern metalcore is far from even being somewhat decent. The band isn’t afraid to bring a song back to just a tiny drumloop and some strings. This keeps the balance in between the parts where black metal remains the predominant theme.
Every song is something new
Delusions of Grandeur opens with a typical death metal setting and brings those lovely deep bass sounds that you need for wild headbanging. This is followed by a second surprise: clean vocals! Which is kind of funny, because the promo explicitly said “NO CLEAN SINGING”. You can’t be mad at it though, it sounds beautiful and adds to the sinister theme of mental illnesses. We can find a remarkable feature in every song on the album. Ghost of a Previous Nightmare starts with some soft guitar, and after this intro I to make the term ‘blackened metalcore’ a thing.
A more traditional second half
She Who Walks Upon the Sea is a more straightforward black metal song. The End of a Dream starts with more beautiful, compelling cleans and transforms into a dark, desperate type of atmospheric black metal that makes you want to cry Behind the Veil is along the lines of blackened death, but gets slowly broken down to a minimal sound towards the end. My Soul Divided is also a little more traditional and contains everything you’ve been wanting: blastbeats, distortion and big sounding riffs. Insidious is the last track of the album and has another one of those perfect balanced bits of progressive guitar work with clean vocals, alternated with atmospherical, modern black metal sounds.
I have truly been blown away by this album. We only get eight songs to listen to, but with an average time of over five minutes per song, that still leaves plenty of time to pick every little detail apart. Like I said before, this album is about different mental issues and troubles that can overcome a person in their lifetime. This is put together extremely well, you can really feel the despair and tragedy in different parts. Melodic solos and compelling lyrics make this album not only heavy and sad, but also very beautiful. Horizon Ablaze may label itself as extreme metal, but don’t let yourself be scared off by this name. If you like the more modern styles of -core music, or want to work your way into more extreme metal, but don’t want to bury yourself in 80s and 90s works: please listen to this CD. It won’t disappoint. This is, simply put, just an incredibly good record.
Release date: 16 February 2018