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At The Altar Of The Horned God – Heart Of Silence

at the altar of the horned god – heart of silence


Spanish multi-instrumentalist Heolstor, who is involved in several Black Metal bands, has released the second album of his perhaps most strange project, At the Altar of the Horned God. On the whole, ‘Heart of Silence’ confidently continues the trend set on the previous album ‘Through Doors of Moonlight: Black Metal mixed with non-metal music. However, if that opus was dominated by Ambient components, while Industrial music was an auxiliary element, now black metal is added not just to Ambient/Industrial, but almost to Martial Industrial/Apocalyptic Folk. Maybe something in the vein of Der Blutharsch, Allerseelen, etc.

‘Through Doors of Moonlight’ with its rituality (often eastern-tinged) was very reminiscent of Endvra, but, to be honest, due to some otherworldly lethargy, it was a bit boring. Whereas ‘Heart of Silence’ is dominated by not just ritual, but militant/ritual sounds. Even if it is just a kick drum (or its sample) that taps out at the beginning of ‘Listen’, ‘Closing Circle’, ‘Heart of Silence’, ‘Guardian of the Threshold’ and ‘Severing Light’, it turned out to be quite a combative, ritualistic drum pattern.

It must be said that drums monotonously beat on ‘Heart of Silence’ mostly not even the rhythm, but rather some step. Yes, the album contains mainly monotonous material, and on ‘Guardian of the Threshold’ the monotonous tapping effect is enhanced by the use of a djembe (a goblet-shaped hand drum, originally from West Africa), which sounds really original. It is only when martial Industrial is replaced by Black Metal that we can talk about some kind of reasonable drumming that is more habitual to metal music.

There are more Black Metal elements on ‘Heart of Silence’ compared to the previous album and, more importantly, they combine more firmly with non-metal music. For statistics: ‘Prayer I’, ‘Malediction’ and ‘A Circle of Swaying Leaves’ were (almost) entirely Black Metal-esque pieces on ‘Through Doors of Moonlight’, the rest were created in Ambient/Industrial style, if only ritual atmosphere at the very beginning of the album was ruptured by a typical Black Metal tremolo picking.

Well, on ‘Heart of Silence’, in its turn, there is only one fully Black Metal-esque piece: the sixth ‘Anointed with Fire’ is the most black metal-ish song with its typical tremolo-picked riff over a blast beat, moreover, exactly in a Scandinavian manner, as well as with its piercing tremolo melody, that’s just like Atmospheric Black Metal. In addition, this song has a classic Black Metal structure.

So only one pure Black Metal piece presents here, when there were three ones. However, the score is still in favor of ‘Heart of Silence’ – again, black metal firmly invaded the territory of other styles in most of the songs on this album: “Listen” has a passage with Black Metal tremolo picking, ‘Closing Circle’ also has a tremolo, plus its finale is quite black metal-ish, ‘Heart of Silence’ contains blast-beats and tremolo picking at the beginning and end, and there is a muffled tremolo in the “verses” of ‘Severing Light’, and the final groove is almost Black Metal-ish here too, plus a piercing tremolo section.

Though we must take into account the harsh truth of life: At the Altar of the Horned God’s music is such that when it comes to pure black metal elements, interest in it disappears, because it is, by and large, rather ordinary Black Metal. So Heolstor went the right way, paying more attention to mixing styles. It remains to note that only two songs ended up devoid of Black Metal elements: ‘Chthonic Summoning’ (and even then, somewhere in the middle a simple tremolo is drowned in the mix by keyboards) and ‘Guardian of the Threshold’. ‘God Is in the Rain’ too, but more on that later.

The Black Metal component has increased its influence on ‘Heart of Silence’ not least due to the sharper guitar sound, the guitar almost grates on the ear sometimes (pay attention to the ending of ‘Closing Circle’). And yet, and yet, even despite its distorted crackle in the general sound of the album, the Black Metal-esque guitar is most often perceived just as an element of the atmosphere. Actually, sometimes it gives itself away only with a crackle (for example, the beginning of ‘Chthonic Summoning’). Other times there are true metamorphoses: you get the feeling that it sounds like a synthesizer (the beginning of ‘Listen’), or even the female vocals “appear” (the finale of ‘Guardian of the Threshold’). By the way, unlike ‘Through Doors of Moonlight’, there are no female vocals on ‘Heart of Silence’.

As befits, Heolstor uses harsh shrieking (but not so usual high pitched) vocals during Black Metal attacks, while during Ambient/Industrial sections his clear voice pulls us into the world of Apocalyptic Folk even more. Most often this is a majestic and measured singing, sometimes it becomes gloomy and monotonous. No doubt, the vocals are the main advantages of ‘Heart of Silence’. You can, of course, compare Heolstor’s singing with early Ulver, or Enslaved (‘Heart of Silence’), or even with Isengard (‘Guardian of the Threshold’), anyway this is not clear “Black Metal” vocals, but the manner of Apocalyptic Folk. Sometimes, by the way, there is something of Andrew Eldritch (The Sisters of Mercy) in his voice.

The second last song ‘God Is in the Rain’ deserves special mention. It’s a Suicide Commando cover. The original song by the Belgian Electro-Industrial music veterans is a typical EBM/Industrial piece, very harsh and monotonous. Heolstor retained the melodism, rhythm and drive of the song, but used other instruments for this: instead of a typical EBM synthesizer we hear keyboards a little in the spirit of Mortiis, and instead of a slightly distorted voice – his signature Black Metal-ish and clean vocals. Although the guitar generates a hard groove, it does not add Black Metal elements to the whole sound. Hmm, the flavor of this interpretation can be considered the use of a tambourine, yep. Well, the song stands out from the rest and, to be honest, if you do not know its origin, then it will probably seem off topic to you. The interpretation is good, no doubt, but the song itself is boring. By the way, unlike ‘Through Doors of Moonlight’, ‘Heart of Silence’ does not use (obviously) EBM elements like electronic background. This is a great asset to the album too.

Summary. ‘Heart of Silence’ is a very original work, but not to everyone’s taste, because not every Black Metaller likes Martial Industrial and Apocalyptic Folk after all. The new album is a step forward for the project. We warmly recommend you this hypnotic and dark music.

At The Altar Of The Horned God

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