HORNS OF DOMINATION – Where Voices Leave No Echo (2021)REVIEW

“Man’s disproportion. — This is where our innate knowledge leads us. If it be not true, there is no truth in man; and if it be true, he finds therein great cause for humiliation, being compelled to abase himself in one way or another. And since he cannot exist without this knowledge, I wish that, before entering on deeper researches into nature, he would consider her both seriously and at leisure, that he would reflect upon himself also, and knowing what proportion there is.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées

A threshing wraith’s curse by way of man’s own daimonian nature, Bavarian tri-spectre’d black/death band Horns of Domination strikes rotten boils and sagging pestilential flesh upon all dissenter, stretching and withering into function their condition on this first wave of violence, ‘Where Voices Leave No Echo‘. Though these Nuremburg-based fellowes are fresh in mind on approach of this debut album they are neither new to the German extreme metal reality nor freshly formed as a band. Their wisdom is as well-worn as the congealed and hardened black residue of desiccated biologic warfare, wherein only time and solitude could have served the carbonized apocalyptic gnarls of bleakest, blackest death briquette. Though their presentation lacks the outsized charisma and repetitive focal point of today’s überfüllt extreme music pomp the world over, the mania of expression and stunning variety of stylized rhythmic forms available on this debut are well worth the patient consideration of sincere and discerning extremists.

Horns of Domination originally formed in 2014 between members/ex-members of Excoriate, Venenum, Obelyskkh and Krater for the sake of creating a violent “war metal” sort of project and by the band’s own recollection such a simple conceptual formula likely wouldn’t have ever been possible or in their nature with each of the musicians involved tending towards elaborate conglomerations of sub-genre which tend towards evolved and additive extremism rather than rote combination. Their influences from 80’s extreme metal, thrash, modern avant-garde black/death metal and various forms of doom metal have consistently informed the Horns of Domination sound, if we can consider their output one singular feat rather than an oeuvre which is nearly too broad to nail down. Their first demo tape (‘Demo 2015‘, 2015) released to much acclaim for its perceived black/doom-sided death metallic features which garnered comparison to Necros Christos perhaps due to its comparatively slower pacing and some of the angular rhythmic turns taken. This would provide enough initial momentum for the band that they’d suggested they were ready with enough songs for a full-length as early as mid-2016. Five years later it’d be fair to say they’ve put in a considerable amount of work and this comes with an overall sped pace compared to that of each of the two songs from the demo tape, “No Beyond (For No One)” and “Throne of Ecstasy”, which bookend the running order on ‘Where Voices Leave no Echo’.

A slicker, faster and more varied approach isn’t all that defines the central mode of ‘Where Voices Leave no Echo’ wherein an amorphous yet very present aggression forces the issue — One part untamed elite death metal and another part outside-the-box modern occult black metal which could be set somewhere nearby the intoxicating movement of Morast, the angular dark-psychic rip of Kosmokrator and perhaps even the unpredictable slashing of Alchemyst (R.I.P.) in terms of style. That doesn’t mean we get any such consistency of focus from Horns of Domination but varied mixtures of elements that race from idea to idea with great enthusiasm for all manner of moods and extreme metal sorceries. Rushes of quasi-death/thrash metal riffs give opener “No Beyond (For No One)” a sense of the album’s eclecticism but do not fully convey much more than testosterone-ganked mental congestion before we begin to understand any semblance of signature sound from the artist. Blackened and nigh progressive sludge flavored moments on “Die, Here in Solitude” briefly speak to the lilt of ‘Soma’-era Bølzer if only vaguely; This is less the result of an intentional sub-genre mashup and more indicative of the variety of techniques and modes available to the quartet. On “Untamed” and “Throne of Ecstasy” we’re served chaotic death psychedelia alongside this aura, there swarms of rise-and-fall riff progressions and traditional heavy metal strides give us a sort of bedrock to begin to count strata of experience from. The short of it? Each song offers something different, though some tangential ideas build precedence for reoccurrence over the full listen.

Though it makes sense to pull back and generalize to some degree, ‘Where Voices Leave No Echo’ is yet an decidedly underground beast of black/death metal freakery, but setting flame beneath the skin to reveal what motor organelles drive the cohesive purpose of Horns of Domination is necessary, this band takes a bit of work to warp the mind around. Where it all comes down to pool in steeled and rarified form for my own taste is the wax-melting molten grace of “Oscillating” which is arguably the most out of place piece on the running order but also the most accomplished chunk of modern songcraft on the album. This is peak melodramatic revelation for the composer, at least before the title track pushes these limits a bit more, building the initial riff statement of the song off of a distorted doom metal rise and rushing into a thrilling and admittedly sentimental melodic black metal salvo which serves as becomes the arcing progression for the song itself from that point on. There is some great value in the nuances of this song taken piece-by-piece but the gist of it is that “Oscillating” speaks to Horns of Domination‘s ability to present each song as a singular event with an obvious purpose as an appreciably crafted song, not just a sub-genre exercise. The acoustic intro of “Vanish” into “Untamed” hadn’t sold me on the experience yet at all but as we hit upon the mid-point of the full listen their sound begins to resemble a sort of harder-edged idealism than that of a band like Morast where melodic devices supersede any sense self-conscious affect when touching upon elements of modern black metal or post-metal. The title track is of course the keystone to this realization beyond that point without containing any particularly new surprises therein.

Into the hairiest pit of Side B “Die Here, In Solitude” gives us a step beyond the necessary tally, or, enough piled reason to remember this album beyond its stunning album artwork (by way of Ernst Morsch/Discordia Graphics) and count it as notable rather than a formative experience. The song itself is rooted in a miserable non-traditional doom metal form yet still reads as festival stage-sized black metal performance and this will either give the impression of “modern” metal influence or a complete transfiguration of the ancient ones depending on your major points of reference for extreme metal. This new version of “Throne of Ecstasy” which closes the album picks the energy back up after a handful of flattening song and gears up for a last gasp which I’d found to be one of the better songs on the album.

As to what the album offered in reflection after each full listen? Vexation, mostly. The overall experience was difficult to sum wherein any particular consistency took some patience to extract, especially considering the first ~12 minutes of the record, and to be fair that was my initial reaction to Venenum‘s ‘Trance of Death’ which’d taken just as long to fully steep into, so, judgement was reserved for several listens to start. The full listen is uneven and purposefully so, the aggression available to the listener is thick and raucous yet not so much that the more serious-faced melodic/cinematic nuance of the album loses is own vital depth and this means ‘Where Voices Leave No Echo’ is loud yet oddly unassuming in its broader melodic swipes until it has a chance to spin its yarn a few times over. I appreciated having a sort of “nut to crack”, a twisted mass of beast’s guts to wring and scalpel through, though I don’t believe this album will hold my attention as long as it will hold as a brilliant first impression of what Horns of Domination are capable of. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Where Voices Leave No Echo
LABEL(S):Sepulchral Voice Records
RELEASE DATE:October 22nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Black/Death Metal,
Black/Doom Metal

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