Horse Latitudes @ Nosturi, August 27th, 2011. With the approaching darkness of the Finnish fall and winter – the enjoyment of which will be cut short for me should California call in January – I deemed it necessary to take a head start into gloom and darkness by checking out the quadruple doom metal gig headlined by the legendary Saint Vitus in Nosturi, Helsinki. Their historical first appearance will be covered by the well-established metal media, so I decided to concentrate (for personal reasons too) on the opening act, Horse Latitudes.
The Helsinki trio, named after The Doors' song, has already released an eponymous EP and debut album ‟Gathering” that has been highly appreciated by critics. Consisting of drummer-vocalist Harri and the two bass-players Veli-Matti and Heidi, Horse Latitudes takes conventional doom metal and gives it a distinct, uncanny spin. The slow, heavily distorted drone of the bass-akimbo is combined to march-like low drums, interrupted with violent crash-fills and shamanistic rage of the speedier sections, but one should not confuse apparent simplicity with lack of ideas – for at the level of the idea and originality, Horse Latitudes ruled supreme among the support acts at Nosturi.
The band's set was a minuscule thirty minutes, in their case leaving space for three long, ponderous songs, but the trio had chosen them well. To the poetic ‟Seas of Saturn” and the aggressive, at times almost groovy, ‟Son of the Moon” (both from ‟Gathering”) they added a previously unheard tune that is to be released on an upcoming 12” split with Hooded Menace who were also present supporting Saint Vitus. The patient, titanic grind of the bass guitars painted most of the horrific landscapes, the drums providing variety and shifts within the songs. It was interesting to note how one forgot that the stage was set with instruments usually reserved for staying in the background. Horse Latitudes managed to turn the tables and bring out the distinct character of the basses and the drums, almost as if none was accompanying the others, but rather so that each individual brought its own character to the mix, the result being a discordant, demoniac harmony where the outcome appeared greater than the sum of the components.
Added to the downtempo, dark and discordant musicianship is the clean singing of Harri, who excelled especially in comparison to other support act vocalists on the darkening Saturday night. With a great sense for nuances, he managed to invoke the planetary seas and dark depths, ranging from low growls, to monotonous Jim Morrison -like chants and high-pitched shrieks. His standard singing voice was in good order so that the special effect stayed just that and didn't become ends in themselves.
In a BTSB interview after the show, Veli-Matti said that the band's confidence in performance has taken steps for the better and this was easy to see from the Nosturi crowd as well. The trio gave out an air of being in control of the stage, of their respectful instruments and of the massive waves of sound and bursts of piercing metal-attack that left the building shaking and the journalist trembling for the rest of the night. Still, the slightly embarrassing arch-gloom and false seriousness, so common with many metal ensembles, was not present, and the atmosphere remained somewhat relaxed, even if the depths of the coldest space and deep despair remain at the heart of Horse Latitudes' songwriting.
Even if Horse Latitudes might have squatted in the shadow of their idols, the venerable Saint Vitus, it might not be long that they're sought after performers at many a venue around the world. Maybe in twenty years there is a country that awaits the steam-driven sledgehammer of Horse Latitudes as devoutly as Finland waited for Saint Vitus pre 2011.
Check www.myspace.com/horselatitudesmetal for more info on Horse Latitudes, their upcoming releases, song previews and tour schedules!
Esko Suoranta BTSB