If you are a metal band and you name your record The Weight of A Thousand Suns, you are promising something unimaginably heavy. Black/death metal band Horizon Ablaze have done just that, and while their sound is neither the slow, down-tuned grooves or hyperfast technicality that we may associate with incredible heaviness, their third record is unabashedly bleak, ominous, and thankfully, very enjoyable. The Weight of A Thousand Suns will be available on February 16.
The Brother Of Death
Horizon Ablaze open their third outing with an aggressive attack on one of my favourite activities; “Sleep Is The Brother of Death” is certainly the stuff of nightmares, but perhaps a darkly enjoyable one. A pounding groove is established before evolving with an ominous chord progression that flows perfectly into an off-kilter verse. It is immediately apparent how much attention to transition is present on the song; each part builds effectively into the next. This is especially essential when marrying disparate Gojira-like grooves and Emperor-esque chord progressions, blasts, and yowls. “Sleep Is The Brother of Death” traverses hypnotic drums, creeping arpeggios, and dramatic riffs for an impressive opener. A penchant for the macabre and mysterious is also immediately present, with lyrics like, ‘I’ll gouge my eyes out / so I can see / the truth in every lie’.
Delusions of Grandeur?
With 8 songs and 45 minutes, The Weight of A Thousand Suns wastes little time making an impressive statement. Though direct in its delivery, the album still manages to cover a breadth of territory. “Delusions of Grandeur” introduces somewhat unexpected but fitting singing in an Ihsahn-meets-NWOBHM chorus. This song also asserts that black metal can have incredible riffs, which is proven again and again throughout the album by guitarist Stian Ruethemann. “Ghost of Previous Nightmare” opens with clean guitars and huge drums from Kevin Kvåle, making for a slow burn. “My Soul Divided” even includes hints of acoustic guitar. Though some of these choices occasionally slow the momentum of the album, they are necessary for both pacing the record and adding diversity within a genre that is sometimes monochromatic (that monochrome, of course, being black). The variety here also makes for enjoyable and rewarding repeat listens.
“Insidious” closes with one of the most knotted and interesting riffs on the album. Subtle and hypnotic singing conjures a fleeting comparison to Black Crown Initiate before cresting with tremolo riffs and blast beats. A drawn out and slowly building solo finishes off the song, managing to be somehow inspirational and epic despite its darkness.
The End of A Dream
I had not heard of Horizon Ablaze before this review, but The Weight of A Thousand Suns has more than caught my attention with a fresh take on a genre and an impressive statement in its own right. Featuring some of the most interesting and focused guitar compositions I’ve heard in a while, dramatic and excellently produced drums, and a diverse yet dark aesthetic, there will be much for fans of heavy music to enjoy here. The occasional lyric may seem melodramatic and some songs pack less intensity than others, but these are small complaints for what is an overwhelmingly enjoyable album. If the rest of this year’s music continues with as much quality as The Weight of A Thousand Suns, picking out AOTY list will be an unenviable task.
Notable Tracks: “Delusions of Grandeur”; “Insidious”
FFO: Gojira, Emperor, Black Crown Initiate