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Khors - "Return to Abandoned" (CD)

Khors - "Return to Abandoned" CD cover image

"Return to Abandoned" track listing:

1. The Arrival (Intro) (:46)
2. Lost Threads (3:52)
3. Asgard's Shining (6:18)
4. Song Of The Void (5:44)
5. The Fog (...And Grief Still Moans) (5:56)
6. Mysteries Cosmos (4:27)
7. The Seas Burn Of Omnipotence (9:52)
8. Sacrament Of Buyan (5:30)

Reviewed by on January 7, 2011

"The stronger production values and uncharacteristic, jam-heavy songwriting plays a role in 'Return To Abandoned' being the best Khors album to date."

One of the great things about black metal is that defining the genre has become much more complex over the years. The lines have blurred to a point that labels mean next to nothing. Ukraine’s Khors partakes in the style of black metal, but not in a traditional sense. Their fourth album, “Return To Abandoned,” is grim, progressive black metal that is heavy on the symphonic side. The stronger production values and uncharacteristic, jam-heavy songwriting plays a role in “Return To Abandoned” being the best Khors album to date.

The past three albums have shown hints of the experimental nature of the band bursting at the seams to come out undaunted, and “Return To Abandoned” allows it to take control. The tremolo-picked riffs and mechanical blast beats of “Asgard’s Shining” are not as common as the steady pace of “Lost Threads” and “Song Of The Void.” The band seems more comfortable outside the black metal circle, incorporating keys, synth, orchestration, and acoustics in a manner that doesn’t take away from the rest of the instruments.

The band’s appreciation of 70’s progressive rock leaks through on “The Fog (...and Grief Still Moans)” and “The Seas Burn Of Omnipotence.” This isn’t some Enslaved worshipping though; the spirit of Pink Floyd and Camel are self-imposed onto these majestic pieces. The former has a bouncy organ lead courtesy of Nokturnal Mortum’s Saturious, who has a hand in the great keys work on the album. The ten minutes that the latter track takes up is put to excellent use, with an extended acoustic jam that shows Khors at an all-time musical peak. Some may find the long instrumental passage to be somewhat indulgent, a claim that has some relevance of truth, though it’s to the band’s credit that it comes across natural in its placement and overall flow.

Beneath the noise and static tension of black metal is atmosphere; sweet, decaying atmosphere. The genre has always been known as one that can recreate the feeling of everything from chilling death to a stark winter night. Khors stumbles when it comes to this aspect of the music. The crisper production takes away a lot of the unsettling moods from their earlier material. The keys do little to mask this ineffectiveness, with the exception of the sinister intro “The Arrival.” There is never a sense of dread, of wonder, or anything that could transport the listener into another world. The songs are well-written and executed accordingly, but it comes at the cost of tangible atmosphere.

Khors’ latest album almost came out of thin air, landing on metal’s doorstep like a nameless baby in a basket. The band’s evolution from debut album “The Flame of Eternity's Decline” to “Return to Abandoned” is noticeable, a sign that the band is getting better with age. The most interesting underlying story here is that this is the last album with original lead singer/guitarist Helg at the helm. For other bands, that may put their future in doubt, but with an excellent album like “Return to Abandoned” to fall back on, Khors looks to be fine as it heads into a new era of melodic black metal.

Highs: Progressive mindset on "The Seas Burn Of Omnipotence," incorporation of keys, synth, and acoustics, thicker production

Lows: Lacks a gripping atmosphere, a few generic tunes

Bottom line: Khor's strongest collection of songs to date, a result of tighter musicianship and a willingness to push beyond black metal boundaries.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)