Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Album Review: Horisont - Odyssey

My previous experience with Horisont's music was not one that made a lasting impact. I reviewed "Time Warriors", and walked away feeling like Horisont was one of those bands that was capturing the sound of the 70s, but was missing the spirit of the classic music. It's easy enough to replicate the studio sounds, but it always comes down to whether or not you have the songs, and I just wasn't feeling it from them. That's a complaint I have about many of the bands that so heavily recall those days, as very few have been able to merge the sound and the spirit. There are only a small handful I would say have done that.

With this album, Horisont has gone a step further, writing what they have called a 'space saga', which is in essence a space-rock concept album. That proposition is dangerous, as it can go wrong in oh so many ways.

The album opens with the ten minute title track, which gives the band plenty of time to spread their wings and try a little bit of everything. There's a spacey (naturally) intro, a run of notes that sounds fairly technical, and a shifting dynamic that never keep the song in the same place for long. The first verse is all atmosphere, with a melody I know I've heard before somewhere, and well-accented backing vocals in the chorus. From there, that exact sound is absent for several minutes, as instead the song shifts through multiple sections, before finally returning once before the outro. While that makes for a break from the traditional verse/chorus structure, it also makes it a bit harder to enjoy the song, since the returning melodies of the traditional song form became the standard for a reason. The parts are interesting, but it sounds as if they included too much just to make a long song, and I'm not sure it adds up to a whole.

As we move deeper into the record, I begin encountering the same issue I had the last time I listened to Horisont's music. While they sound like an authentic 70s band, their songwriting isn't sharp enough to rise above the inevitable comparisons to the bands of that time. The songs that follow the opener simply don't have the kinds of melodies that they need. Neither the riffs nor the vocals deliver hooks that are going to stay with you. There's nothing here that stands out and makes you say 'now THIS is what I want to hear'. Part of that, I'm sure, is due to the heavy dose of space rock influences, but that doesn't excuse the lack of punchy songs.

I understand that Horisont's influences are different from those of bands like Graveyard and Year Of The Goat, the fact of the matter is that the comparison of just these modern bands shows how great the divide is. They all sound appropriately vintage, but the two bands I just mentioned are able to inject their music with undeniable moments, and make you forget that you're listening to a throwback. Horisont can't quite do that. The music is always trapped in its 70s kabuki makeup, and never feels as natural as it should.

There are moments here that work. "Light My Way" is a truly great song, and shows me that Horisont can make all of this work. "Flying" and "Back On The Streets" are good too, but there aren't enough songs of this quality to anchor the record.

"Odyssey" might be a slightly better record than "Time Warriors" was, but it's still an example of a band that is searching for their own sound. They are borrowing from the 70s so heavily that they haven't found a voice to cut through the vintage production. Until they refine their songwriting and make their songs daggers that pierce you, I'm afraid they are going to continue to get caught up in the retro hysteria.

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