(We present Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Norway’s Horizon Ablaze, which will be released on February 17th by Leviatan/Diger.)
Ever since Emperor first semi-reformed for their ongoing series of reunion shows people have been asking them about the possibility of a new album. And while this, in itself, isn’t all that surprising, the band’s forthright comments about how that’s never going to happen have been rather refreshing.
As Ihsahn himself has said multiple times, any new album would have to be a product of both his and Samoth’s different writing styles, and the two of them have since diverged so much – one leaning more and more towards pure Prog, the other delving ever deeper into more deathly waters – that finding some sort of consensus or common ground that still actually represented the Emperor sound, would be almost impossible.
But… if they ever did produce a sequel to Prometheus I would imagine it wouldn’t sound a million miles away from the extravagant, expressive extremity of The Weight of a Thousand Suns.
Now I realise that this statement is immediately setting a ridiculously high bar, and I’m not necessarily saying (though I’m also not necessarily not saying) that The Weight… will ever be considered as seminal and iconic as Emperor’s fourth and final album was/is.
After all, timing and context play an important role in how any album is perceived/received, and it’s not exactly controversial to state that Horizon Ablaze simply don’t have the same level of fame or notoriety as Samoth and co. did in their prime.
But, for the life of me, I can’t help but feel that the band’s distinctive brand of Proggy Black(ened) Extreme Metal is still a more-than-worthy heir to the Emperor legacy, without being beholden to it.
Tracks like striking opener “Sleep Is The Brother of Death” and the remorseless “My Soul Divided” are as vehement and as visceral as anything from the Norwegian icons’ later years, yet possess their own distinct voice and vision all the same, while “She Who Walks Upon The Sea” and “The End of a Dream” are every bit as intense and as intricately composed as anything from Ishahn’s post-Prometheus solo career, albeit with a denser and darker core of molten metallic fury which imbues every contorted twist and kaleidoscopic turn with an extra dose of primal energy.
Conversely, numbers such as “Delusions of Grandeur” – with its blend of chunky, Zyklon-esque riffs, scathing blastbeats, and unexpected injections of enigmatic clean vocals – and the pummelling strains of “Behind the Veil” incorporate a much more prominent Death Metal influence into the mix, without ruining the delicate balance between melody and discordance, venom and vitality, bleak hooks and blistering heaviness, which forms the unique core of the band’s sound.
Ultimately, regardless of whatever comparisons and contrasts you might wish to draw along the way, the entirety of The Weight of a Thousand Suns – from the bold hooks and fret-bursting bombast of “Ghost of a Previous Nightmare”, to the proggy blackened catharsis of album closer “Insidious” (which you can check out below) – is consistently more than the mere sum of its parts, without a single weak link or wasted moment to be found.
Mark my words, this could (and should) be one of the defining albums of 2018.