After a strictly enforced embargo, I'm finally able to express my admiration and enthusiasm over Horse Latitudes' brand-spanking new album Awakening. Having sold out the first printing of their 12” split with Hooded Menace, the band seems to have gotten the ball rolling big time. In May they support Jex Thoth at Kuudes Linja in Helsinki, a mere week after returning from Moscow where they play with Moon Mistress. The internet is startling to bustle over Awakening as well.
On the new album the doom-metal trio continues its seemingly minimalist assault of two bass-guitars and drums, but manages to conquer new ground. The band sounds like its in the zone, in a dark flow-state, in regards to songwriting. Interesting permutations of their basic soundscape – the droning, ponderous and quaking onslaught of bass tones – are starting to emerge on Awakening. From rampaging stampedes, like on “Decline of the Ages” or at the very end of the last track “Along the Circles”, to the weird gongs and guttural chants, taking the listener to the unholy temples on the unspeakable Plateau of Leng, on “Profane Awakening”, Horse Latitudes demonstrate vision and imagination in their approach to music.
The band is out to show that the presumed limitations of their choice of instruments does not slow them down in any way. The same goes for their approach to their genre niche. Awakening is not your run-of-the-mill doom metal album, it is a work of art, complex, polished, but still raw and personal, eliciting emotion and spacing-out in the careful listener. This is not an album to play while mindlessly driving around in your -88 Corolla, it is an experience to be enjoyed in the twilit evenings of the dark Finnish winter, or by witchfires on Midsummer night.
Despite its heaviness and average song length of seven minutes, the pieces on Awakening do not swivel to boredom. Unlike some progressive metal bands (yes, I'm looking at Dream Theater), length is not an end in itself for Horse Latitudes. Extended instrumental parts do a job, they paint landscapes, fit seamlessly together, and don't merely demonstrate quirks of technique.
The musicianship throughout the album is excellent and my inferior hearing organs don't find anything to complain about production quality either: Vocals deserve an extra smiley-face sticker. Harri is doing an excellent, varied job, from clean vocals to anguished shrieks and growls. This, to me, shows an understanding of nyance and feeling that is needed for vocal work to make an impression on the listener.
Overall, Awakening is a superb continuation to the debut Gathering, starting from the same premise, but widening it towards the dark, cold reaches of stars and ocean depths. A must buy for anyone into doses of doom and gloom and for those interested in the direction Finnish metal is being taken. Horse Latitudes are an apt helmsman joining in on that exploration.
While waiting for delivery, listen to Gathering, Horse Latitudes' debut, here.