Second Horizon are a band that do two things really well, and it is the interplay of these elements across the half hour run-time of “Albdruck” that ultimately keep the proceedings interesting. On one hand, here is a band that can write an atmospheric, dark, and foreboding progression. The band plays with different colors, tonalities and dissonances that aren’t as utilized widely in this type of music, and the dynamic is pretty refreshing to hear. The sound never veers into Avant territory, but has the effect of making everything sound unsettling, which does the music and sense of overall atmosphere huge favors.
On the other hand, while some of the heavier passages evoke a certain sense of emotional “heaviness” that I think the band is ultimately going for, the harder edged sections early on didn’t really click for me. That isn’t to say that the band can’t write a heavy riff, but more so that the dynamics felt a bit off so early on, and I found myself wanting more of the foggy unease teased by the intro track. The record really starts to become a journey when the band places focus and emphasis on this space, allowing requisite breathing room for their melodies and passages. Much like a live band warming up and getting into the “zone” a few songs into a set, the band finds its footing in the strong second half.
It took a few spins for the record to click, and admittedly even on the 4th and 5th listen I still grappled a bit with the structure of the first three tracks. Ambient opener “Zucht” is dark and spooky sounding; a genuinely unsettling introduction that had my curiosity piqued over its short minute and a half duration. The next two tracks gradually pick up the intensity, mapping out a sort of bell shaped curve from beginning to end. Although “Marter” seems a little disjointed coming straight after the intro track, I found it and “Repression” to be solid tracks overall, with “Repression” being the stronger of the two. “Marter”‘s loud soft shifts didn’t really grab me, especially in this case where the “soft” is more musically varied and interesting than the “loud”.
The back half of the record finds its balance and manages some really interesting and memorable passages, ultimately finishing the record in a stronger fashion than it begins. “Panoptikon” and “Denunziation” at times evoke an Insomnium-esque sense of vastness and power, all the while a post-metal ethos on dynamic interplay makes good on the promise of that intro. By the time closer “Wille zur Macht, Lust/Schmerz” completes the sonic journey I found myself alot more satisfied with the listen than I had been at the onset. The record takes its time to reveal its core, but I was ultimately glad I stuck through to the end, and found the final three tracks rewarding.
“Albdruck” is a grower of a record that is aiming to be an emotional and varied instrumental experience, and although the efficacy of those dynamics can be a little uneven in the early goings on, the band sticks the landing. I would love to see where the band takes their sound in the future, because “Albdruck” is a solid foundation. One to check out, and spin more than once.
- Wille zur Macht, Lust/Schmerz