A compilation is always a risky thing for a metal band to release. On one hand, they can be an excellent way for new fans to get into a band, but on the other, there’s always the risk that “Greatest Hits” packages will merely be seen as a “cash grab” by the record label. Furthermore, metal isn’t exactly a genre that usually concerns itself with writing hits, so most of the time, one can just buy an album from a metal band that lacks filler and is chock-full of good songs that would already be a fine introduction for a band. Luckily, Finnish black metal band Horna’s “Musta Kaipuu” is anything but a label cash-in, as the release contains tracks from the “Envaatnags Efios Solf Esgantaavne” recording sessions that have yet to be released on CD. For fans who prefer CDs to cassettes or vinyl, this should be viewed as a high-priority purchase, especially for those who have been meaning to check out Horna but don’t know where to start.
“Piina” starts “Musta Kaipuu” off with an unusually upbeat riff that has a “bouncy” rhythm. Needless to say, it’s quite an unusual song for a raw black metal band to write, but one that remains as one of the best on the compilation nonetheless. Another song that stands out for all the right reasons is the raucous “Oi Kallis Kotimaa”, which is brings to mind a Finnish drinking song, and it’s easy to picture a group of intoxicated, Satanic metalheads growling along in a pub while listening to this song. The intro may be unsettling, but once the vocals kick on and the power-chords kick in, the song becomes a whole lot less frightening and a lot more fun, as odd as this may sound. Compositions like this are vital in preventing Horna from becoming just another face in the black metal crowd.
These may be some of the more upbeat songs on the album, but rest assured, raw black metal fans, as there’s plenty of the darker, harsher songs that Horna are known for on “Musta Kaipuu”. “Haudanvarjo” is one of these songs, as the eight-minute ode to the shadows is devoid of any happiness, and the bleak mood is perfect for black metal fans who may have been confused by the opening track. Another of these dark tracks is “Unohdetut Kasvot, Unohdettu Aani”, which features a blackened riff that carries most of the song. There are quite a few tracks on “Musta Kaipuu” that exceed the six minute mark, but they never get boring, as the band are masters at reeling in the listener with their brand of Finnish black metal, so much so that the listener could even be hypnotized by these riffs.
Production wise, this is as good as it gets for raw black metal. Although there is a good deal of treble and almost no bass in the mix, this is perfect for the genre that Horna plays, and anyone complaining about the mix would likely be missing the point. Rather, the mix allows every riff to be heard, and the guitar tone works perfectly for Horna’s typical harsh sound. The snare drum is a little muffled on some tracks, but this is a minor complaint. Corvus’s vocals are at a perfect spot in the mix, as they’re just loud enough to stand out above the instruments, but not so loud that they’re overpowering. Whoever engineered the tracks on this compilation should be commended, because they certainly did their job well.
Horna may have a ridiculous number of releases under their bullet belts (seven full-length albums, two live albums, fifteen splits, four “best of”s, and nine EPs), and it may be confusing for a new fan to know where to start, but “Musta Kaipuu” would be a great introduction to these Finnish black metal hounds. The songs are consistent, well-composed, and as raw as it gets while still being high-quality. As a bonus, the artwork is simply amazing, with the black-and-white textures combined with the imagery of a girl greeting potentially undead visitors is simply terrifying. This compilation has the notable honor of being a US-only release, so it should be easier to find than most Horna releases (although you’re still not going to find it at WalMart). If you’re a black metal fan, you would be wise to check out “Musta Kaipuu”.
For more info: San Antonio fans can check out Horna on their official MySpace. Horna doesn’t tour the US very often, but if they make a stop in San Antonio, witnessing these Finns would be highly recommended.