Well, you have to hand it to these wacky Ukrainians. Though Khors may never become a household name, they may have sewn up the title of worst ESL offenders ever. I mean, just look at that title: Night Falls Onto the Front of Ours? What the hell does that even mean? It actually beats out Vardan‘s seemingly unbeatable Enjoy of Deep Sadness, and that my fiends, deserves a mighty toast in their honor. And the fun doesn’t even stop there, as more things get lost in translation along the way, but more on that later. When not carving up the King’s English, Khors rocks a solid version of old school black metal accentuated with tasteful melodies and interesting folk influences. They’ve had some banner moments, like 2010s brilliant Return to Abandoned, and pedestrian outings like 2012s Wisdom of Centuries, but despite the inconsistency, they’re a band I perennially root for and I’m always hoping for another breakout moment. Is NFOTFOO that moment or does it fall flat in the front of ours?
In a nutshell, it’s a fall. While it’s a decent album with some interesting musical ideas, it gets held back by the inclusion of a good amount of less interesting material, often dropped right alongside the nifty stuff. This gives the album a schizophrenic vibe as it regularly swings from sweet to sour. Though none of the eight tracks are bad, they’re mostly stuck in a middle ground between okay and good, with only a few rising above the fray to immediately grab you. The opener is notable for a bad title (“No Oaths, No Tears, No Knees”) and a noticeable early Opeth influence. It’s heavy, moody and features some effective riffing and memorable harmonies, but it still falls below what I expect from these chaps.
And that sets the pattern for the majority of NFOTFOO. You get songs with nice touches and cool moments trapped in compositions that don’t click in your head as a memorable whole. “Dead Birds Valley” and “Following the Ways of Blood” both feature Finnish style melancholia mixed with traditional blackened rumbling and discordant riffing, and I want them to resonate deeper than they do. Likewise, “1664” is a fairly generic number elevated at times by inventive riffing and enjoyable Celtic Frostisms, but it won’t blow anyone away.
The best moments include the extremely Tiamat-esque title track instrumental which could have fit on Wildhoney, and the rabble rousing closer “My Cossack Way” where things finally come together for Khors thanks to some grandiose, epic flavored riffing and healthy nods to Amon Amarth and Viking era Bathory.
Helg and Jurgis are more than able guitarists and they have some good ideas scattered through the album. They borrow from the best of black, death and even gothic metal and every track has moments, even if they often don’t gel into great songs. Vocally, Helg does a fine job, jumping between black rasps and a Martin van Drunen like roar. The weakness here is the songs themselves and when you listen to Return to Abandoned, it’s tough to understand why they left that style and sound behind for what they’ve been doing the past few years. That is creating inoffensive and listenable music which rarely commands your full attention, becoming more like pleasant background noise than the killer slab of metal I yearn for.
Khors seems to be stuck in reverse ever since their musical high water mark, but they’re still a good band and seem to be on the precipice of another big moment. I’ll just keep waiting for the Ukrainian metal muse to hit them again with her spiked warhammer. Until then, I’ll be returning to Abandoned…again.