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Horn Divides and Conquers on “Retrograd”


Dissecting one’s own work and putting it under the microscope takes a degree of humility and self-understanding. Most musicians and bands exist under the conceit that their music is whole and unnecessary of separation — the result of their hard work and creative flexing is an end-game and doing anything beyond simply publishing it would be offensive. There have been a select few metal artists who have taken the time to look at their musical approach as a collection of styles and nuances, which now includes Horn.

From 2002 onward, sole member Niklas “Nerrath” Thiele’s first solo project (one which opened the floodgates and gave birth to… Licht Erlischt, Cross Vault, Latitude Egress, and more) focused on the majesty and beauty of the Westphalian forests which surrounded him. In classic style, and much like artists who meditated on the style before him, the “pagan black metal” Nerrath performed found this glorious middle ground between the romantic idea of “hindsight” neofolk and ferocious, melodic black metal.

However, 16 years later, the Retrograd EP shows Nerrath looking at these elements individually, which allows for revealing insight into his actual songwriting process. Centering on two larger song ideas — “Retrograd” and “Bocksfuß” — Nerrath divides them into their two essences, a folk song and a metal song. In doing such, Horn’s duality also divides in personality, with each folk song representing the introspection and naturalistic beauty which characterized now-classic albums like Naturkraft and Jahreszeiten. On the other side of the coin, Horn’s displays as a metal band are suddenly much more raucous and, dare I say, joyous, the sounds of the bierhalle and celebrations with comrades shining through so much more without the glut of introspection.

When placed in the greater pantheon of Horn releases, this being the project’s tenth, Retrograd can be seen as an anomaly, or even a practicing and honing of style and approach over a decade and a half later. Even so, it comes from that same place of local reverence and pagan, naturalistic awe which characterized his entire body of work.

Retrograd is out this Friday on Iron Bonehead Productions. Follow Horn on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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