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Horizon Of The Mute : Trobar Clus

The debut full-length from Horizon Of The Mute continues its high-quality industrialised Death/Doom voyage.

Though it was an unpleasant surprise to see Finnish doomy Dark Metallers 0Xist fold in 2015, one unexpected bonus was having guitarist/vocalist Jani Koskela's Horizon Of The Mute project arise from the ashes. Early 2016 gave us the deep space voyage of the self-titled debut EP; this full-length offering followed just over six months later, with a certain change of focus and thrust.

You might assume - and I certainly did, initially - that 'Trobar Clus' would be a reference to some sort of galactic structure and therefore a continuation of the exploration into the physically unknown. If so, you'd be wrong, though, just as I was - the term actually harks back to a 12th century form of French poetry used by itinerant troubadours, noted for its complexity and obscurity and being aimed at the elite few who could could actually understand it. Of the practitioners of that particular style, the Gascon scion Marcabru - who came from destitute beginnings and died very young - was perhaps the most famous, before this 'closed form''s inaccessibility led it to disappear entirely.

And so, what you have here is more of an introspective, inner-space Fantastic Voyage, albeit one driven by the same sort of industrialised Death/Doom as the debut. There's much the same degree of deliberation involved: a slow and steady heartbeat of clashing guitar and percussion backdropping harsh growled vocals. Instead of the Dark Ambient interstellar feel, the spot effects, melodies and contrasts have more of a medievalist/Folk vibe running through them, with a stately lilting quality. There is a corresponding increase in brightness to the production, which takes things to a slightly higher level of clarity and separation - and despite the similarly stark and measured metallic-sounding emphasis of the sonic backbone, 'Trobar Clus' comes across as a warmer and more...welcoming...refinement. If 'welcoming' is the right word, even in relative terms: it's still out there on the Drone-soaked fringes of slow, harsh and darkly angular music, heading towards the sort of Funeral territory where you'd find bands like Solicide. Nonetheless, Horizon Of The Mute pulls back slightly from those extreme limits, with some almost Gothic/Darkwave motifs characterising the more melodic parts: once again, it's not an instantly-accessible work, but one which does invite submersion and concentration.

Most importantly, what it does is reward that concentration in spades. There is a plethora of detail woven into the fabric of each lengthy (nine-minute-plus) composition, and following those sees each track unwind with a distinct character and feel of its own, but enough similarity to its neighbours to carry through the overarching theme. The lyrics, provided in a booklet once more classily-illustrated by Peter Tak√°cs, are - fittingly enough - opaque and allusive verses. I read them as addressing the struggle to achieve self-determination, but they're sufficiently cryptic to contain other intents and layers of meaning.

So, those are all the upsides. The downside is simply that, coming so hard on the heels of the debut, there may not be a sufficiently obvious difference between the two to want both, especially if you already invested in 'Horizon Of The Mute' and are used to a minimum five-year interval between your favourite bands putting out new material. Counter to that, of course, they're both short works, by Doom standards, and with a total of 75 minutes between them, they neither exhaust all the possibilities of the material, nor represent an excessively monolithic listening session. Well, regardless, though it's a fairly subtle difference in approach, I do consider both worth having, and 'Trobar Clus' to be fractionally the better of the two high-quality releases. That's why it's the one on my personal 'best of 2016' list, representing what is an extremely interesting and quite individual blend of elements.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Above Deep Waters
2. Inwardly Decreasing Cosmos
3. Marcabru Speaks
4. Sestina

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Horizon Of The Mute bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-02-12 by Mike Liassides
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