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Friday, May 18, 2012

Album Review: Horisont – Second Assault

Somewhere along the 250km of roadside that connects the Swedish cities of Örebro and Gothenburg, they must have discovered some manic tear in the space-time continuum. It’s just one theory to make sense of the two cities’ rapidly-expanding retro scene. Combined, they are able to boast an array of hirsute bands like , , and – the subject of this review. Each of those are successfully selling their own individual recipes to the same flashback-inducing space-cake. The crazy, tie-dye-wearing fans that are mopping it up can be found swinging their flares like it’s the Seventies all over again.

’s biography describes their sound as being “heavily influenced by 1970s hard rock groups like , , and ”; indeed a mouthful, which their wonderfully self-deprecating Facebook page sums up for us as “New Wave Of Swedish Old Man’s Rock”.

As you delve through Second Assault, their sophomore album, you’ll certainly pick up plenty of the aforementioned influences as well as some that they don’t acknowledge. On the magnificent “Crusaders Of Death” you’ll get a big hit of laid-back blues, echoing the shuffle of bands like and , whilst the very first spin of the opener “Time Warrior”, had me jumping to the conclusion that they’d merely reworked ’s “Speed King”. Most certainly, the band’s mark is branded deep onto its surface.

With so many different influences running side by side, the songwriting is a bit of a rocky road. There are clearly some tracks that hit you harder than others. The hearty groove on “Watch Them Die” grabs you by the nuts, but the title-track is a little too dull and the chaotic structure of “Spirit” merely leaves you a bit dazed and confused. At different moments my nostrils burned with pungent whiffs of ’s prog, the sheer power that lurks within and even some hints of early- thrown in for good measure.

Axel Söderberg’s vocals are naggingly high-pitched and urgent and take some getting used to. The production keeps them crisp and crunchy so that they stand shoulder to shoulder with the scuffed, pitching riffs and tight, wild leads of guitarists Charlie Van Loo and Kristofer Möller. Sadly, it’s partly this abrasive clarity of sound that ends up being the album’s Achilles heel. The tracks stab at you like insect stings, each taking their influence from a different source.

The multi-directional approach, with the guitar tone changing with each track, means there isn’t a stylistic grab that binds them all together (take the muffled connective padding that all ’s tracks seem to tote, as an example of a single-minded style that achieves this), so you’ll find it tough to attach yourself to the whole caboodle. There’s also the fact that the rhythm section is intermittently relegated in the mix by the howling vocal and strings. I, for one, certainly found myself preferring the softer, buzzed-out tracks where the waves of lead abate and the bass and drums pop back to the surface in the way that those little colored buoys do when the ocean becomes subdued.

It’s funny. There is one particular American retro band they remind me of very much and that’s ; another band who suffer from trying to take a little too much from everyone else to throw into the pot without offering enough of themselves. I expected to dig Second Assault a lot more than I did which, despite my misgivings, is by no means a bad album with one or two sweet, rumbling cruisers and incisive cuts but, sadly, ’s bigger picture is a far blander prospect than the emotion-soaked class displayed by some of their rivals.

Also online @ The NewReview (with samples) =  http://thenewreview.net/reviews/horisont-second-assault
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