Horn – Mohngang Review

It’s neat seeing a progression of an artist across a project’s discography. From Anathema’s death/doom to prog-rock stylings, Ahab’s crushing funeral doom to, like, pretty funeral doom, to the deathcore to symphonic black metal to straight-up black metal of Abigail Williams, it shows true growth and maturity to acknowledge the past while stepping into the future. Today’s is German act Horn, comprised of sole member Nerrath,1 a prolific pagan black metal act with two demos, eight full-lengths, and an EP since 2002. While this style is fine pickings for the hateful and fucking unnecessary style of NSBM, Horn avoids this in favor of natural and historical themes in his storied career. Ninth full-length Mohngang is another addition to this progression, but does its trajectory shoot for the stars or directly into the Skull Pit?

Horn’s progression can be seen in its covers. Now-classics Jahreszeiten, Die Kraft der Szenarien, and Naturkraft are balanced pagan black ventures with nothing but respect for nature; Distanz, Konflikt, and Feldpost were averagely received albums focusing on war and heritage;2 finally, Turm am Hang, EP Retrograd, and today’s Mohngang are solid works devoted to the rubble left in the wake of mankind’s futility. While little has changed from Horn’s core sound, Mohngang, with its pagan atmosphere, subtle folky melodies, and some nice meaty riffs, revels in an effective simplicity, even if it remains in the shadow of its discography.

Horn’s sound can best be described as a heavier Summoning. While it includes folky flourishes throughout, its best tracks rely on a balance of the riff and pagan atmosphere. Intro “Einleitung – Der Wettlauf zum Meer” sets the stage with forlorn and empty cello for tracks like “Satt scheint der Sud der Tat,” “Handkreis und Chor,” and “Ødegård und Pendelschlag” to beat you over the head with meaty riffs and pagan atmosphere, exerting impeccable balance over the hefty and whimsical. While folky or pagan bands like the aforementioned Summoning or Saor lean hard into the atmosphere and Grylle or October Falls opt for riffs, Horn finds a nice balance between the two, which is threaded throughout Mohngang’s 49 minute runtime with crispness and clarity, alongside Nerrath’s scorching blackened roars and haunting cleans. There are some interesting tricks to spice up this core sound, including cowbell (“De står her som sletta”), acoustic guitar a la Falls of Rauros (“Upstream Canals, a Ship’s Bell Sounds”), and uses of dulcimer (interlude “Dulcimerstück”).

While Mohngang’s strengths lie in its balance, there are several misfires scattered throughout. “Wär nicht Traubhagel” is the best example, utilizing an awkward polka intro that feels haphazardly thrown atop when the black metal instrumental kick in. “Vom Tribock hohl geschossen” attempts to channel chaotic riffs and unhinged atmosphere, but due to the meticulously orchestrated styles of the album at large, it feels glaringly sloppy by comparison. While these are truly the only blatant downsides, there are a few questionable flourishes that detract slightly from otherwise solid tracks: the excessive horns and riffs get rather repetitive in “De står her som sletta;” a dissonant riff in “Handkreis und Chor” feels out of place; the dulcimer in “Dulcimerstück” is super cool and sets the foundation for a full track but only settles for an interlude; finally, closing instrumental “Die mit dem Bogen auf dem Kreuz”3 excels in closing the album the way intro “Einleitung – Der Wettlauf zum Meer” does, but just simply goes on for too long.

Mohngang’s sound can be described as sturdy. Nerrath has successfully established a sonic palette to carry his career as Horn, and frankly, with how balanced the pagan atmosphere and hefty riffs are, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a double-edged sword, however, in that the tracks that are most flimsy are those that are most experimental, but even the strongest offerings remain in the shadow of his earlier material. While Horn’s themes of man’s wreckage versus nature’s glory have become more bleak, showing this thematic progress, the music introduced on Jahreszeiten remains majestic, while the material on Mohngang feels like business as usual.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: hornlichterlischt.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/hornofficial
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Also of Cross Vault.
  2. I know, I know, I’ve checked—no NSBM in sight.
  3. A cello cover of a track from Trum am Hang.
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