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Who said the 70s were gone? Rock continues to evolve and morph into a wide array of forms, though there are some bands out there today that is totally comfortable kicking it old school. One of those is Horisont, a Swedish rock outfit four albums into their career and coming out with their fifth. Sudden Death is the name, a 13-track collection of new tunes dripping with the band’s trademark throwback flavor.
Indeed, everything, from the songwriting down to the production rings indistinguishable from the sounds of yesterday; you might as well have this record sitting on a K-Tel record holder. The opener “Revolution” begins with a stacked harmony section evocative of many-a-prog track or rock opera cut, the song, on the whole, being a blend of Kansas and Chicago (and perhaps other places in the Midwest) once the saxes kick in. “Free Riding” rolls out a shuffle feel accompanied by dual guitars entirely in the vein of Thin Lizzy, rounded out with a spacey synthesizer break to keep the prog vibes alive. Other tracks are more specific in their resemblance; if the words “Sultans Of Swing” don’t pop into your mind hearing “Pushin’ The Line” you simply must be deaf.
Much like “Revolution”, the piano-driven rocker “Into The Night” gives more of an appealing flare to unsung sounds of the 70s like early REO Speedwagon, particularly “Ridin’ The Storm Out” among other tunes. “Standing Here” treads a similar sonic path, sitting somewhere between Kansas and Supertramp with its six-strings-meets-string-section approach. “Runaway” is the result of combining the melody of Heart’s “Crazy On You” and the drums of Deep Purple’s “Burn” with a splash of Blue Oyster Cult to boot, meanwhile “Graa Dagar” (Gray Days in Swedish) fits cozily in the cub-hole of the halfway ballad; i.e not too hard-rocking but not unbearable mush either. “Sail On” dusts off the melodic Lizzy boogie again, mashing it up with Streetheart’s “Baby’s Got A Gun” for maximum flavor.
“Breaking The Chain” sets a space-rock premise, taking a right turn into strings and acoustics once more and venturing tangentially into the realm of Yes. You might think you were hearing “Come Sail Away” when “Hold On” starts; while the Styx vibes do maintain throughout at times it strikes closer to Triumph with a synthesizer and orchestra section. “Archaeopteryx In Flight” fully embraces proghood with its winding length and extraterrestrial mood, it’s as if the “Foreplay” part of “Foreplay/Long Time” was extended out and jammed on for 8 minutes. “Reign Of Madness” seems fit to be a cut from an epic concept album had there been a central story behind it, standing out aggressively from many other tracks off the record a la Nazareth. “White Light” is the last hurrah, oscillating between B.O.C and balladry and giving a fair encapsulation of the vintage feel preserved so eloquently throughout the album.
There’s a kaleidoscope of opinions that can be made for bands that intentionally try to sound old. On one end, it can be a pleasure to listen to and a quality tribute to the musical forefathers that made so much possible. On the other, it can be a sign of laziness and a greater symptom of rock music sputtering out of any sort of creative capacity. Whatever your conviction may be, bands like Horisont have studied the 70s sound down to fine art, preserved it, and kept it alive for those who love those old tunes or were lucky enough to have lived through that time. Contrary to its name, Sudden Death is a record full of life, and a definite feather in the cap of a fine little band from Sweden.
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Matt Derraugh is a musician and freelance writer based out of Winnipeg, Canada. He is a lifelong drummer and avid fan of music in general and seeks to fulfill his passion for the art by writing on it as well as playing it with a series of local bands across various genres.