Mayhem Music (2011)
The more I listen to this the harder it is to put it in any basket. It is death metal but has progressive leanings. It has elements of industrial (1941) and even nu-metal but is a decidedly leaving breathing heavy metal construct. The lyrics and short spoken interludes reveal a sprawling concept, one which belies more than influence from Iced Earth. Like their "Dark Saga" it's about Spawn BUT with a twist in that he operates around the time of Pearl Harbor provocation. One snippet made to sound like a news report is so gruesome I actually found it disturbing.
I have not been genuinely disturbed since Slayer's infamous "Christ Illusion" cover which garnered as much controversy as well as much needed (free!) publicity for aging Slayer and record sold like sliced cheese. But I was a Christian in 2006 - there probably was a good reason for me to get offended. Now, it always cracks me up when these theocrats of right AND left, spreading unashamed "conservatism" under the guise of a non-profit, tax-exempt organization they have the audacity to call a church of god, don't mind spending millions of dollars of our money to effectually ensure that bands like Slayer or Lamb of God who normally don't sell to hot, thanks to them sell plenty of records. And nobody asks Christocrats for money, they happily do it for free! The failures of a fascist, admittedly, left wing, Parental Music Resource Center, suicide lawsuit over Ozzy's lyrics, even ones surrounding Slayer's lyrics in the past (possibly related to the ghastly pictures in the "Diabolus in Musica" booklet) and finally banning Lamb Of God from performing by a right-wing city government (but yeah, the so-called Christians are powerless sheep to the slaughter, eh?) - it's all testament to the truth: controversy is the best sales pitch.
Even the targeted artists themselves realized that and started creating MORE controversy on that very premise and purpose. My fellow dearly missed Polak American Peter Ratajczyk better known as Peter O'Steele from Type 'O Negative conveyed the message best in "Kill All The White People" whereby "increased record sales dramatically" line should have been the duh clue for the self-appointed guardians of morality in America. In fact, their actions lead to the INCREASE of behaviors they try to stifle. As someone once said, "the police are not here to prevent disorder, the police are here to PRESERVE disorder". But no wonder, most conservative pundits never made it to the prom or college and not for the lack of funds - they simply loathe education. Their bad research and lack of common sense they claim to propagate yields their defeat over and over again and I love it. So far the 1st Amendment of our Constitution ALWAYS rules supreme, an additional incentive for the offenders to take it to the next level.
When a mediocre Greek black metal band, Rotting Christ, was banned from Gigantour by Dave Mustaine citing "offence to his faith" (yet inconsistently booking equally offending Slayer) claiming to be born again while swearing away during interviews and threatening to beat up fans who throw T-shirts at him at concerts, Rotting Christ's record sales soared although they were not making much money before that. It definitely helped that band's other gigs were swarmed by hordes of protesting "hell fire and brimstone" "Christians".
So can you accuse Horizon Ablaze of purposely waging controversy? Maybe. But I don't think that was the MAIN purpose for the inclusion of the frightening report. The reporter describes a scene of mass murder in very gory details but appears to sound like he revels in it using a gleeful almost worshipful tone as he adds: "...and they were all skinned alive". Proposterous? Sure. Tacky? Not really, it adds a very distinct flavor to this strange CD. All I know for now is that this is great, kind of when I knew Megadeth's "Th1rt3en" was great even after only one spin. With subsequent spins I realized exactly why, the record being a revisitation of 1992 and the magic of "Countdown to Extinction", the record that made me a Megadeth fan, a combination of catchy songwriting in a rigid, classic Megadeth form. This magic, in my opinion, Dave Mustaine failed to resurrect for 17 years and finally achieved with the last year's release. But the point is I knew this was the case after listening to the record just once. Similarly, I know "Spawn" is an exceptional record but as of now I can't really pinpoint why. I need more time with it.
Most reviewers will not allow you to see how further exploration of the record at hand changes their initial mind. I thought it would be unique to include both accounts, since after only two additional spins I am ready to present this incredible work much better. As I mentioned, at it's core, it's death metal but influence of thrash, hard core, industrial, and even black metal ("Obxenochrist", featuring obligatory anti-Christian rant) abound. Traces of Ministry, Trivium, Meshuggah, and Gojira are splattered all over the album and the fantastic (my favorite!) "Barbed Wire Deathbed" sounds, in part, like Hypocrisy while some material wouldn't be out of place on a Pestilence, Cynic or even Atheist album.
A fair amount of the CD is brutal death metal, think a Molotov cocktail of Hate Eternal and Ulcerate. Frankly, I have not heard anything this uncompromisingly devastating since aptly named "Fury & Flames" Hate Eternal and that album may even pale in comparison with brutality of “Spawn” and distinctive thick bass lines. Naturally, Horizon Ablaze is not content to be just a brutal death metal band but again a lot of “Spawn” is exactly that. For once in a while a methodically epic passage will break the relentless cacophony of merciless guitar thunder. Horizon Ablaze excels in not just sounding ultra heavy in slow or midpaced part, but, unlike most metal, they actually maintain the same brutally heavy tonnage at a breakneck speed! And the sound, is it sharp, you ask? Hell, you could put that motherfucker for a razor in your shaving gear, come in full bearded (we're talking Dumbledore bearded) and come out clean shaven, but sustaining multiple deep face cuts just mere seconds later. Again, as with Supreme Pain, I was curious who was responsible for this fantastic production. In fact album deserves 4.5 / 6 but his beautiful pitiless sound adds 1/2 point. Moreover, despite its extreme nature "Spawn" stands very tall vs. multiple spins and heavy rotation each time the listener finding a snippet previously undiscovered.
Audun Grønnestad is his name and as with Supreme Pain I predict bands busting down his record studio door clamored tight hoping for a chance to work with him. I would also extend equal consideration to Mats “Limpan” Lindfors who mixed this beast. The result of both gentlemen’s work is fantastic – the guitars cut like chainsaws and that IN SYNC with the sample machine guns! Goddamn that's fucking metal! Excluding few and far between generic riffs and nu metal Soulfly style parts all of which actually sound good and fitting, "Spawn" is fiercely original, to a certain extent we can even talk about their OWN sound here on a DEBUT! This is just one of those immensely talented and skilled bands that in a just world would be bigger than (Lou)tallica. Every metalhead should cling to this CD like flies to shit! This is the future of metal: more brutal, eclectic, catchy without sounding poppy with excellent mix of simple and wickedly technical riffing. I could write more but don't want to rob you of your own communion with this album. Get on board or get left behind.
Rating: 5 / 6
Composed by Dethster4life