For me the Basque region of Spain (that is a politically dangerous thing to type) will always be intrinsically linked with Metal. This is thanks to my great friendship with Maria Herreros presenter of Sex to 9 and beloved of the metal scene in Spain and the UK alike and herself a resident of Pamplona. It shows that I have not met with my friend in person for a few years in the fact that this is the first time hearing Bilbao’s Horn of the Rhino. This is the bands 4th full length since their name change from Rhino in 2010. Lazy stoners they ain’t.
The album opens with a frankly dull scene setting intro with what sounds like bombs dropping in the far distance. Boooooooooooooo! You are called Horn of the Rhino. You are meant to hit me in the face like a prehistoric penis! Luckily the aural Viagra takes hold with first track proper Exvenstench. With John Tardy meets Zed from Police Academy vocals we are off and running at considerable speed. There is certainly a lot of death metal mixed in with the sludge I was promised. The track chugs along at a good rate of knots but there is not enough there to make it memorable. When the band slow things down for the doom laden “Onward through Domination” I turn round and take notice. Where the last song had sounded like Obituary worship this is in Candlemass territory. Full of deep smoky riffs and soaring vocals this is more like it. Javier Galvez does not have the most powerful set of pipes but his Chris Cornell meets Messiah does the trick here.
High Priest returns to a more rugged stoner sludge but never really gets into a groove and the Tardy style intonation is back. It just doesn’t suit the music in my opinion.
Their Tombs then turns up and gives me what I am after – like a bacon sarnie and a cup of builders brew, delivered by tray to the bedside of a pit mangled gig casualty. Fast paced sludgey thrash death with a hook Sugar Ray Leonard would be proud of. It loses it a bit when they slow it down and suffers from a worryingly prevalent malaise of toolongitis (seriously bands you don’t have to add an extra three minutes all the time – we won’t think you are short changing us). At least the slow bit gives an excuse to get things going again for the end and I get to move my bonce up and down once more.
Deliverance Prayer opens with a vocal line reminiscent of a call to prayer. If the minarets were swathed in smoke and the caller were a crazed Metal Priest. Galvez gets his Power Metal awn for a while and it sounds really promising before the pace is dropped for some atmospheric twaddle.
Drog Om Thral serves as an intro to Grim Foreigners. Luckily, this is not a rallying call for Right Wing boneheads (well at least I hope not!) but rather a thrashed up slice of death/doom loveliness. OK there is a Slayeresque guitar break in there but that can be forgiven. Horn of the Rhino seem to have eclectic milk on their cornflakes in the morning and each track seems to showcase another one of their influences.
“Builder of Carrion Effigies” follows a rather workmanlike 8 minutes of one dimensional death metal. The album closes up with “An Excess of Faith” and we are back in Doom/Grunge territory again. These elements work so much better than the forays into death metal that it is starting to nark me that they didn’t just release an E.P of these works. As such it means that Summoning Deliverance does not really flow as a body of work but rather a scrap book of styles. Possibly, this is a canny move in the world of MP3’s and streamed listeners, but for me, I just feel short changed.
They got the talent and got the chops but changes of direction leave this Horn of the Rhino as less of an aphrodisiac and more a dose of Bromide in the metal brew.
(5/10 Matt Mason)