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Review: Heulend Horn - The Saga of the Draugr
Heulend Horn
The Saga of the Draugr

Label: Furias Records
Year released: 2003
Duration: 47:12
Tracks: 5
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 2.5/5

Review online: July 20, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
The Saga of the Draugr

Rated 3.5/5 (70%) (4 Votes)

Now this is just weird: An avant-garde atmospheric black metal project from Argentina with a concept album about an undead Viking. Bizarre. Never heard this band before, or even of them, and since almost everyone on it is listed as a guest musician, I am guessing this is a one-time thing.

This is an ambitious album, and it’s really too bad Heulend Horn can’t pull off all their ideas. The basic sound here is very keyboardy and atmospheric, with the guitars mixed very dry and low and electronic drums. The arrangements are sprawling and varied, as you might guess with a 47 minute CD that only has 5 tracks. Heulend Horn are trying for an epic feel here, and they sometimes succeed, but several things keep this from being better than it is.

Firstly, the vocals here are terrible. The harsh rasps are OK, but they’re mixed too loud and they don’t go with the rather mellow vibe of the music. But the clean vox are really bad: they can’t stay on key and they seem to be somewhere between a melodic warble and a theatrical kind of narration. The accent on the clean vocals is also extremely distracting.

The second big problem is the production, which is too thin and lacks oomph. As you would expect from a BM-derived project, there is NO bottom end to the sound, and the whole thing sounds very thin and tinny. This doesn’t hurt the predominating keys very much, but it renders the guitars almost invisible, and does nothing to disguise the synthetic drums. Some of the drumbeats are actually very cool, but their blatant drum-machine pedigree sort of ruins it. The mix is all over the place, with the vocals and drums waaaayyy louder than the guitars. So as a whole the production job is pretty inept.

Some of the musical ideas here are good, and there are some enjoyable moments on "Saga of the Draugr", but moments do not an album make. I would have to say the real problem with this CD is that the songwriting is not up to the ambitious scope of the project. The tracks don’t really have anything to distinguish them, and the compositions lack cohesion and force. Rather than sounding epic, "Saga" mostly sounds kind of aimless.

The CD package is really impressive, with excellent art design relating to the whole Viking theme. Some nice landscape photos and pics of longships accent the cool look of the booklet, which also makes good use of Viking knotwork designs. The lyrics reflect an obvious language barrier problem, but still manage some good stuff, echoing the rather formal and poetic style of the Viking sagas.

This is a good try at something different and unique, and there are enough good bits here to make me wish the band had managed to live up to their own ideas. I like the concept of this album better than I like the actual album, if you know what I mean, and I really wish it was better than it is. I can’t say "Saga of the Draugr" is good, because it really isn’t, but it is interesting.

Other related information on the site
Review: Fragments from the 13th Century (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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