Album Review: Horisont - Second Assault
The retro revival of recent years is an interesting phenomenon, not just because of the reminds the music provides of a different time, but because the bands looking to the past can't decide what era should be resurrected for a new audience. The European metal scene is stocked with bands calling back to the 80's heyday of hard rock and glam metal, trying to remind people that this kind of music can be fun. Many of them are ridiculed for wanting to return to a time many true metal fans regard as a blight on the good name of heavy metal, leaving the essential point to go unnoticed. Then there are another group of bands who turn the clock back even further, preferring to revel in the organic simplicity of the 70's. The idea of just writing some riffs, turning on a tube amp, and hitting the record button sounds like heresy to students of modern metal.
Horisont is one of those bands obsessed with the 70's, as “Second Assault” sounds like a love letter to a time they were not fortunate enough to have been born into. The gritty, over-saturated sounds they pull from their amps feel like they were pulled straight off old stock two-inch tape and sliced into the songs on display. There's no overdriven wall of noise, no chugging machine-gun riffs, and no concern for the music slipping off a perfectly edited grid. This is music as it used to be, the sound of a band walking into the studio and playing their songs without needing six months to clean up their shortcomings.
Mood and feeling are not enough on their own to make an album a worthwhile listen, and thankfully, that is not all Horisont has to offer. Drawing heavy influence from Ritchie Blackmore's work with both Deep Purple and Rainbow, Horisont recreates music the way it was written in those olden days. The songs bob and weave, playing fast and loose with tempo and timing, more concerned with the energy of the performance than click-track perfection. “Time Warrior” is a fitting introduction, fighting the trends of instrumentation to deliver an array of sparse guitar figures that each possess more personality than an album full of shredding could offer. Likewise, the nasty riff following the chorus of “Hard Bargain” is pulled straight from the Blackmore canon, the descending notes pulling you down into the sound before the solo rips across the song, sounding like the amp is breaking under the strain of the music. It's a brilliant moment, one that spent decades frozen in vinyl.
The band manages to give depth to their retro love, twisting the dials to give an array of vintage tones, each helping the songs stand out from the larger picture. The use of acoustic guitars is another welcome addition, layering sporadic sections to add another layer to the music, to shift the sound just enough to avoid the songs retreading the same ground. It's a detail that can easily be overlooked, but remains important to crafting an album that holds together.
The most important thing is always the songs, and Horisont delivers on this front as well. “Road To Cairo” rides an eastern-influences riff that feels plucked from a Slough Feg record, and turns it into an infectious number. The jagged riffs in “On The Run” likewise stick in your head, as does the Beatles-influenced riffs of “Watch Them Die”, the most immediately addictive song on the record. The songs aren't as expert at grabbing you as the best Rainbow material was, but they do a decent job of impersonating the experience, making “Second Assault” a gratifying trip down memory lane, even for those of us who weren't around to hear it the first time.