Progressive metal is in many ways the most self-absorbed of sub-genres. To attempt to push music for the sake of music itself almost carries an implicit condemnation of music that is less exploratory and most certainly bears the risk of a band disappearing entirely up their own arseholes, where they will only be humored by the most abominable of metal hipsters. But, if it’s done right, the potential is immense. Music that can challenge you but also doesn’t forget to rock sits at the intersection of fun street and headbang boulevard, one of my favorite places in the world. There’s plenty of fun in rocking out to a simple sledgehammer riff, but when that riff requires a little thinking to wrap your mind around the effect is heightened. This is the space where Horda sit. Finding the sweet spot between ferocity and intricacy, on Part 1- When The Sun Sleeps the Hungarian metal band have quietly delivered up a progressive metal album that is at turns gorgeous and vicious.
The sound here is pure modern metal, clear and musically legible, which is convenient, because any slip-ups in production would make Horda’s brand of musical chaos incomprehensible. The music is layered and complex, with multiple lines carried on at the same time and an experimental approach to timing. The music is still focused however, the intricacy in the service of an overall plan as opposed to compromising the songwriting. Vocally and instrumentally, the Meshuggah influence rings through quite clear, but Horda show more ambition in terms of tonality and musical variety. Opening up with a ringing hypnotic instrumental intro to first track Dream Ends, they lull the listener into a false sense of security before putting the hammer down with some bestial riffage. They continue these gear-crashing tonal shifts throughout the album, the variety helping the most metal parts hit harder and the quieter parts feel like more of a restful reprieve.
That’s the progressive part covered, but how does the album fare as a more visceral listening experience? Luckily, the same production that helps the layered parts ring through is also pretty good at letting the metal beast out of the cage when it’s time, and the chorus riffs here are slamming numbers likely to bite your face off. In particular, the chorus riff on I See Lightning is special: wandering everywhere and ignoring warnings to keep it simple, but rocking like granny’s favorite chair it’s a symbol of everything that’s right with this album. It’s also impressive how catchy Horda make everything within the complex clockwork of the album’s intersecting riffs. It’s a four track album with four potential singles, an undeniable showcase of what Horda are capable of.
Part 1 – When The Sun Sleeps hits just the right spot for hooky, exciting progressive metal. Horda show great acumen for slapping you in the face, but use their brain to do so, and I look forward to seeing what they can come up with on Part 2. Progressive bruiser I See Lightning is embedded below and the entire album is available on Horda’s Bandcamp.