By: Owen Coggins

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Released on March 25, 2016 via Owen Coggins

The record begins with a long track, and we’re straight into the foreboding gloom of the ritual cave… ominous bass thumps are soon joined by the slowly circling moan of what sounds like the wind becoming animate. After a scene-setting eerie minute or so in these damp and dark environs, we set off further underground with a steady smashing beat and tough bass-toned momentum. The voices come back, this time instilled into drummer-singer Harri’s stern visionary bellowing, drawing hieroglyphics in sound to summon ancient thoughts. Changing gear and turning rhythms inside out at ease, the twin bass attack of Heidi and Vellu quickly escalates things to full howling-at-the-apocalyptic-sky mode. Then after a brief but ominous moment of calm, the new member Antti’s noise/synth pitch-black tar is unleashed. The full 18 minutes of ‘Incantation’ is constantly shifting into new flickering shapes, yet always within the tight grip of the band’s unique signature atmosphere.

‘Spirals’ is cut from similar cloth, with a great dying scream in the middle clearing the ground for a memorable, contemplative bass riff to come in over a shimmering hiss, before building and building into a rumbling avalanche of a track. Here and elsewhere on the album, Horse Latitudes have managed to develop an ear for a catchy riff and phrase while adding to their twin-bass and drums attack. Again, the vocals are emitted as if from some ancient Finnish god, as if the stern statues that guard Helsinki’s train station have woken up in order to declaim forceful incantations at the sky and anybody else in earshot. The next track, by far the shortest at a poppy 3 mins 18, is an ambient hiatus, some outer-space plinking worried around the edges by some agitated alien insect and then a deep static buzz.

After that calm centre to the swirling storm, ‘New Dawn’ brings us back to the combined brooding bass and patient, wolves-circling drums while Harri begins again vocally channeling the ancients. This time there’s a faint hint of a familiar tune from an odd source, maybe something vaguely New Romantic-ish of all things, but I can’t quite place it. That just adds to the atmosphere of calling on esoteric spirits and a weirdness hidden at the heart of the mundane. And as if Horse Latitudes’ vocals aren’t commanding and otherworldly enough, fellow Ritual Productionist Dave Terry from Bong appears towards the end to narrate the light that puts out our eyes and is darkness to us and the sun is but a morningstar…. Or something portentous like that, anyway, and it’s a great addition before the track (and the entire universe) dissolves into heaving sludge and crackling heat death.

Finally, the final massive track, the immensely named ‘Beast of Waste and Desolation’ ups the ante to a frenetic pace at first before touring the atmospheric depths of cavern after cavern of looming, echoey doom. The sheer length of the track allows more time in each movement of the piece, and it’s a long journey which ends with a fade-out leaving behind a final collection of hums round a flickering fire.

It’s a great, complex record which sees the band reinforcing their existing strengths (that ancient, ritual vocal sound, the obstinate power of the two basses) with newer supplements (some really catchy new riffs, and the subtle, varied noise textures that new member Antti brings).

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