One of the earliest things I’ve learned in my short tenure working with these angriest of metal men is how difficult describing music actually is. Scholars throughout time have worked hard to remedy this situation by giving us the hallowed name drop, and venerated genre tags, that we might use few words to convey great meaning. And yet, these still often fall sadly short of describing the actual phenomena we experience. I could tell you, for instance, that the music of World of Pain, the third full-length output from the German band Horrizon, is an album of melodic death metal, but there are all kinds of things this could mean. Keyboards? Clean singing? Gothenburg? Insomnium?1 It’s exciting, really, and it makes me enjoy this work deeply, not unlike the way I’ve enjoyed Horrizon’s modern and slightly-extra-melodic take on this genre so dear to me.
One of the more refreshing elements of World of Pain is Horrizon’s absolute refusal to bog it down with overly long – or even just regularly long – songs. Song lengths across the record hover between three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half minutes, which is the perfect length for their style of melodeath. Reminding me of Eternal Tears of Sorrow at their sparkliest2, Horrizon arrive, bash your face in, apply aloe vera to the affected area, and get out. Take opener “Once In A While” as the perfect example. The lead piano lines have an ethereal, yet distinctly upbeat effect, but when the riffing starts, it’s as heavy and affecting as any melodeath I’ve listened to lately. The combination just works, and complements the song structures nicely. World of Pain isn’t looking to transport you out to new dimensions and transform your thinking; they just want to play some good melodeath tunes. And they do.
Of course, Horrizon are capable of more than mere face bashing; there’s a softer, more affecting side to their music that adds flow and benefits World of Pain greatly. “Where Am I?” is a great example of this, opening on a mournful lead riff without sacrificing any heaviness along the way. Closer to the end of the album, “Why?” opens as if setting up for a ballad, showcasing moving clean singing before building to a mid-tempo track of melodic goodness. The clean singing in World of Pain is used sparsely, to texture songs that might otherwise start to become repetitive. This is not to say that the raspy screams that take up most of the vocal space are devoid of emotion. Martin Gerloff knows how to scream to be heavy and how to scream to convey pain. His rage in the chorus of “Why?” resonates perfectly with the strings and lead guitars to evoke absolute despair; his performance is a highlight throughout.
Between consistent songwriting, strong performances, and a clear production, I have very few complaints to level against World of Pain. I could argue, I suppose, that the emotional beat of the album is a bit inconsistent; songs like “Why?” operate as if a step above their surrounding songs, which can make for a bit of a shaky listening experience. I do generally enjoy longer songs, and feel they might better explore what Horrizon is capable of. But really, these are minor gripes that in no way change the fact that World of Pain is a solid album that explores a cool, piano-driven kind of melodeath. “Ancient Wisdom” and “Dying God” are great songs, straight-forward and catchy, heavy and exciting. It’s hard to find too much fault with an album that consistently puts out songs like these ones without exceeding the fifty-minute mark, so I choose not to do so here.
World of Pain reminds me of a simpler time in my musical upbringing. I remember discovering more mainstream metal bands, whose albums were simple, catchy, and made for great gateways into the works of metal music. World of Pain casts Horrizon in a similar light. This is an album that simply works, and I enjoy revisiting it every time I do. It’s a welcome break from the complex, the over-the-top, and the overdone. It just is what it is; strong, memorable melodic death metal. I’ve been hoping for such a find for some time now; Horrizon does not disappoint.