Journeys across the inner landscape, issues with mental illness and wrestling with – and conquering – one’s inner demons are the principal themes on this ambitious offering from Norwegian avant-garde black metalists, Horizon Ablaze. So yeah, party round at vocalist Andre Kvebek’s joint then, as the bulk of this philosophical output comes from his own dreams….and visions.
However, despair not! As morose, ponderous and – let’s face it – well trodden as this might sound, Weight of a Thousand Suns is really rather good.
Fans of Enslaved and, most significantly, Emperor’s intellect-in chief Ihsahn will find themselves in comfortable (okay, that’s a poor word choice) surroundings here. This is black metal first and foremost, replete with the requisite chiming dischords and withering blasts. But the palette doesn’t end there, the overall production and guitar style throughout is dry, clean and precise – owing far more to death metal conventions than black. Throw in a little hardcore, some shoegaze, art rock – call it whatever you like – there are even morose picked motifs on here that sound like something you might expect the Deftones to churn out in their bleaker moments. Yet Weight of a Thousand Suns never sits still for too long; a couple of bars slip past and we’re off somewhere else entirely and sounding like someone completely different.
The vocals are split between Andre Kvebek and guitarist Stian Ruethemann and boy, do they lend the music a sense of variety and textural scope. Suitably demented blackened yelps with fantastic diction dominate, but there are some surprisingly pastoral, clean sung passages and some rather desperate-sounding spoken stuff too!
By this point, we gave up on trying to identify ‘selling points’ within specific songs! There is an awful lot going on here and while the near vocal hook on “Ghost of a Previous Nightmare” comes close to stealing the show, it’s simply a single chapter in Horizon Ablaze’s epic book.
We had more than a few listens of Weight of a Thousand Suns before penning this review, and it’s testimony to the album’s quality that it still sounds fresh and exciting now as it did on first contact. When this year ends, and we look back on the most memorable extreme metal records of the year, we suspect Weight of a Thousand Suns will be there or thereabouts! 8/10