JESS BECK | Go Venue Magazine
Formed in 2006, the proggy, Swedish rock band Horisont is back with another stylistic album under their belt. Signed under worldwide label Century Media, their new project “Sudden Death” comes out May 15th, 2020, and it’s a whirlwind of everything that is great about the 1970’s. The album itself feels big and bold, and unlike many schools in the South, isn’t afraid of evolution. With titles such as, “Revolution,” “Runaway,” and “Sail On,” the listener really gets a solid indication of what they’re in store for in this very linear, albeit emotional, production.
This is very much a feel-good record from a feel-good band, designed for hot summer days filled with cold beer and the feel of freedom blowing through your moustache. If Tom Selleck had a personal soundtrack, this would be it. An incredible production of guitars, piano, drums, and vocals, pound the listener with that good ol’ summer party vibe. Dressed like Led Zeppelin, and sounding like a cross between Queensryche, The Beatles, Styx, and Yes, the listener is in for quite a ride, and I’m pretty stoked to be doing this album review. So without any wasted time, comb your giant moustaches, and let’s ride into the sunset!
The first track on the album is called “Revolution.” The track begins with melodic vocals and piano, followed quickly by picking up with the drums – and this really sets the tone for what to expect on the rest of the tracks on the album. This is a wonderful track that to me speaks of a personal revolution – something highly relatable to listeners, and very well written hooks that keep you wanting more (with a very Styx style breakdown towards the bridge which I’m sure listeners will love)!
Next up is “Free Riding,” and I really like this one. It’s a track that sounds like it has a faster tempo than it really does, and you can imagine the lonesome motorcycle rider flying down the highway with it. Axel, the lead vocalist, gets a little strained on the high notes, but that’s alright – it’s fitting in the same way that your voice would get if you tried it too, which, in my opinion, makes it that much more relatable. The instrumentals on this one are incredible with a harmonious mixture between the guitars and keyboards. This track was one of the singles released on the album, and you can check out their visualizer here:
Following is “Pushin’ The Line,” one of the album’s two singles before the release date, is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Strong guitar riffs from Charles and David accompany frothy vocals and deep bass lines laid down by Magnus. The drum beat reminds me of something you’d hear from late Rush drummer Neil Peart but without the pomp and circumstance. If you want to check out these guys in all of their moustacheious glory, watch the video here:
Fourth on the album is “Into The Night,” which kicks off with a power saxophone intro that bleeds into the background, making this one of the more interesting tracks stylistically for me. This track really does make you want to ride into the night, and gives you that nostalgic power ballad feel. I’d be very curious to see how this one does live if they decide to include it in a line up on tour. Either way, you end up with another masterful track blended perfectly with piano and wailing guitars.
The fifth track is entitled “Standing Here,” and I can only imagine a large moustached man in a dark corner bar about to romance the fuck out of some beautiful young woman. The story takes a turn, and I won’t ruin it for you, but let’s say that this is the stuff of some very successful films. The storytelling here is really visual, and I like that in a track. It can paint you a picture, but the imagery is your own, and what you envision might not be what someone else sees. That’s the art of a great story – and while this one isn’t as complex as “Into the Night,” it’s a beautiful (or tragic?) story.
Next is “Runaway,” and the tempo gets more of a life on this track from its predecessor. This track is one of my favorites on the album. Musically it’s incredible. The guitars are powerful and memorable, and I’d be hard pressed to NOT air guitar to this track as I’m flying down the highway in my Trans Am. Come to think of it, I would be hard pressed to NOT air drum too, so shout out to Pontus for his careful attention to detail on this one. The bridge riffs are just incredible and pack a modern “Free Bird” feel. It’s deceptively delicious like a catfish photo on the internet. Bottom line – if you don’t head bang to this, you should probably see a doctor.
Following on that is “Graa Dagar.” And ok, let’s scrap what I said about this being a linear album in the introduction. This track is a bit of a deviation from the norm on this record. It’s literally written in Swedish, and it just adds a different feel to the track. It’s very reminiscent from when Blindside, another rock band from Sweden, recorded their track “Shekina” from their album “About A Burning Fire.” It just gives the record a “hometown” feel, and this is another one that I would be curious to see live. “Gray Days” in English, the song is perfect for those…well…gray days. It’s melodic and beautiful, a little sad, but that’s ok. This album is emotional, and like Trash Boat said, “Life only plays its significant songs when I’m feeling gray.”
The eighth track, entitled, “Sail On,” picks the tempo back up a little, but not as much as they did in “Runaway.” It’s a decent track and picks up a very “Grand Illusion” vibe. Could it be a coincidence that Styx has a track called, “Come Sail Away”? Perhaps. But this is still a very solid track nonetheless, and you can really hear the influence that bands like this have had on Horisont.
Ninth is “Breaking The Chain,” which, you guessed it…has a very Styx style sound to it. The introduction is highly reminiscent of “Mr. Roboto,” but in a modern way. And I suppose this track causes a divide for the remainder of the album, where the retro synth takes more of a hold. You can really hear Alex more on these tracks as he doesn’t have to compete as much with the guitars.
The tenth track on the record is, “Hold On,” which begins as a ballad, but picks up as the track progresses. The message of the track is certainly for the downtrodden, and I’d be curious as to the origin of this one. It feels personal, and you can almost feel vocalist Axel begging you yourself to hold on.
The eleventh song also has the longest title, “Archaeopteryx in Flight.” This song is a little different than the majority of the album, and you really get a feel for experimental mixtures on this one. The vocals begin muted with heavy instrumentation, and almost gives you the “Baluchitherium” feel from Van Halen. Not entirely sure if this was an influence or not, but to me it’s styled on almost the same way, with experimental riffs and drum breakdowns. It’s a bold move for sure, but fortune often favors the bold. This is a wildly emotional track, and the melodies take you on quite the journey – almost as long of a journey as my dad has been on to get milk and cigarettes from the corner store.
Next is the first of two bonus tracks, entitled, “Reign Of Madness.” This track continues the retro synth manifesto with power breakdowns and an overall feel of a modern Styx vibe. The track has an interesting feel with well-timed pauses in the lyrics and ends with heavy synthesizer notes.
The final bonus track is titled, “White Light,” and this track is quite delightful. It doesn’t open too heavy, which is also what I like in a beer, but the tempo quickly changes to the electric chorus. Bridging into a slower melody and then picking back up again, this song is intense. It’s like a retro version of anything by System of a Down with how quickly the melodies and harmonies change up in this one, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. “White Light” is the perfect ending to an album that should certainly make your “retro rock” playlist.
All in all, “Sudden Death” is full of head-bangers, summer slingers, and is just an overall electric and eclectic experience. Do yourself a favor and give this a jam the next time you’re combing your moustache as you prepare to meet your date for the first time. It just might be a game changer. And Horisont, if you’re reading, I’d love the opportunity to shoot you fellas one day once shows start filling up again. Thank you for this wonderful album, I know what I’m going to be rocking out to this summer!