One week from today the German pagan black metal band Horn will release Verzet, its ninth album in a musical career that now spans nearly two decades. As ever, Verzet is the vision and solo work of Niklas, aided by a few talented guest performers.
The album’s name is Dutch for “resistance”, and three of the tracks (“Galgenblech”, “Aufstand”, and “Verzet”) deal with the topic of rebellion, while others concern the importance of perseverance and principles (“A Hill To Die On”) and the concept of agency and the lack thereof (“Protektor”). But the song that Horn chose as the lead “single”, which was accompanied by a beautiful video, was “Alpenrekorder”, and it manifested a reawakening of the classic Horn style, with its roots in folkloric traditions and a reverence for nature.
“Alpenrekorder” is as majestic and as desolate as the alpine vistas in the accompanying video. The music is both uplifting and deeply melancholy, and does indeed carry a feeling of reverence in both of those aspects. It benefits from a guest cello performance by Lestaya and from Horn‘s own performance on another old instrument, the hourglass-shaped mountain dulcimer.
But make no mistake, “Alpenrekorder” is as explosive and ravishing as it is enchanting. The drums blast, the guitars sear and soar, the vocals snarl like a wolf as well as rise in solemn, heroic song, and there’s a panoramic quality to the music that’s as sprawling and awe-inspiring as those mountain vistas.
But “Alpenrekorder” is not how the album begins. It begins with “Pein muss – gerieben als Korn”, a song about the state of an inebriated mind. In its sound, it’s a wild and exhilarating dance. A mandolin rings and whirls, the drums rumble and bound, and Niklas sings in gritty tones as well as growls and howls. It does sound like a drunken revel — one that threatens to get out of control — and makes for a bracing and blood-pumping start to Verzet.
Following up that opening song with “Alpenrekorder” is a vivid demonstration of just how dynamic the album will be. It’s a sharp juxtaposition, even though the folkloric ingredients are strong in each one, and beyond that opening pair the music continues to create wide-ranging experiences, with each song having its own distinct personality. And the dynamism of the music shines through within each track as well as among them, making each one a musically and emotionally rich experience.
And so, “Galgenblech” is determined and defiant, muscular and visceral in its impact, but shaded with grim and grieving moods, and at times it seems to glide high on thermals like a hawk.
The guitars gloriously ring in “Aufstand”, the drums scamper and race, and the vocals are raw in their passion. It will give your neck a good jolting too, and is definitely one of the most infectious songs on the album. “Aufstand” is also one of the most stylistically varied tracks on Verzet, going beyond the bounds of black metal and folk in stirring fashion. But it’s certainly not the only one that does that.
The rich instrumental, vocal, and emotional variety of the music shines through again and again in the songs yet to come. “A Hill To Die On” will put your heart in your throat, but also includes the beguiling ring of acoustic picking backed by a growling bass and spine-slugging drumwork. And that’s followed by “Parole Sono Pietre”, a slow Mediterranean guitar interlude contributed by former Horn guitar player F.F. that’s downcast in its mood but completely enthralling.
Just as that instrumental track creates a sharp juxtaposition to what precedes it, so “Protektor” creates another one as the follow-on song. Martial and mysterious at first, and soon enlivened by a darting electronic pulse, it proceeds as a grim, swinging march with a fighting spirit kindled within it.
And to close the album, the title track (which features lyrics and stirring vocal melodies by Joris van Gelre) revives memories of Bathory at its most epic, again bringing to the fore feelings of solemn reverence, heroism against daunting odds, and a union of darkness and splendor, of sorrow and resilience. It proves to be one final time when Horn will put your heart in your throat.
And so it’s with great pleasure that we present today a full stream of Verzet in advance of its May 16 release date. We’ve spilled many words about it, but maybe only one word will suffice: It’s magnificent.
The album has a powerful clear sound, and credit for the recording, mixing, and mastering goes to Sculpt Sound Studios in Cologne. The evocative cover art is the work of Timon Kokott Art-Work. And we should also tip our hat to session drummer D. for his nuanced work on the songs.
Verzet is available for pre-order now, in gatefold vinyl, digipack CD, and digital formats. This is a self-release, and all proceeds will go to the artist.