Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Album Review: Horisont - About Time

Time has a funny way of folding in on itself, turning trend-lines into blips, as the horizon ebbs and flows like the tides. It was only about two years ago when the retro rock revival was in full swing, and there were several bands with immensely bright futures who were going to wash out the worst of rock, and replace it with a more authentic vision. But now, that is a forgotten memory. Graveyard has broken up, Blues Pills decided to make a soul record, and none of the others have stepped up their game. What was a promising group of bands is now a rudderless ship, as the bright spot in the world of rock has been dimmed to a flickering wick fighting off a cold draft.

Horisont, though, is still out there and still plugging away, making the kind of rock music that could be undiscovered vinyls from the 70s. That is their charm, although I would say that they have yet to write songs that fully live up to the appeal of their sound. I have listened as each album has come out, waiting for them to master the art of writing like a 70s band, and not just sounding like one. Is this where they do that?

That's a tough question to answer. "The Hive" is most certainly a weird trip of a song, with enough changes in tone and tempo to make the three minutes a whiplash, and a few vocals that try to reach the sky the way Robert Plant thought was fun when everyone was too drug-fueled to know better. It is certainly a remnant of those days.

The tracks that follow are completely different in their approach, but they borrow the right ideas from the past, in a way that makes me think Horisont is finally figuring out that there's more to being a successful retro band than simply using old gear and pressing your album on vinyl. Even little things like the synth tone at the end of "Without Warning" are key to making these songs more than a pastiche of the past.

I've been critical of Horisont in the past, because they have always fallen short when it comes to the quality of their actual songs. What I can say about "About Time" is that it's easily Horisont's most interesting, and likely best record. They take a few more detours here, and feel more comfortable when doing so. There isn't the forced attempt to fit into the blueprint of what we wrongly think the 70s sounded like. The band is more confident in being themselves, and that comes through in the music.

The downside, however, is that they sometimes try to stretch their ideas too much, to the point where even the three minute running times can feel a bit long. Horisont is improving, but they haven't quite mastered the art of vintage songwriting the way that Graveyard did. "Night Line" is a very nice replication of the attitude of Thin Lizzy, but some of the other tracks lack that one signature hook that is necessary.

But let's focus on the positives here. "About Time" is the first Horisont record that I feel captures what they've been going for all along. It not only sounds like the 70s, it feels like the 70s as well. That's exactly what's missing from most of the retro bands out there, so achieving that is something to be proud of. Horisont may not be on the level of the top tier bands yet, but unlike the majority of bands in recent years that can't sustain themselves, let alone display growth, Horisont is doing that.

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