Avant-garde extreme metal albums seem to be following me around so far this year, and here’s another one from Norway’s Horizon Ablaze. “The Weight of a Thousand Suns” is a “journey through the human psyche and a deep dive into the man’s innermost fears and dreams”.

The first thing that struck me when listening to this album was how similar it is to the ice and fire of Enslaved. “Sleep is the Brother of Death” is complex and progressive in its frosty extremity. Crashing drums and guitars and angst-driven vocals, with a ghoulish clean chorus on “Delusions of Grandeur” are the order of the day. It’s all high output and highly technical. It’s also as dark and heavy as you might expect from a band with associations with Blood Red Throne, 1349 and Pantheon I.

“Ghost of A Previous Nightmare” starts more subtly than the previous track, has the most powerful riff and as an expansive piece, has an epic quality. It’s desperate of course, and sophisticated in its instrumental pattern but this all adds to the all-consuming flavour. I found this song gripping by comparison to the other extreme pieces. Burzumesque is the way I’d describe the all-to-brief introduction to “She Who Walks Upon the Sea”. The menacing tone comes back, but it’s a bit part and overall this is a weighty affair. The mysterious progressive-style clean chorus returns on the airily heavy “The End of a Dream”. The progression into fire and imperial chaos is pure Enslaved. The difference with Horizon Ablaze is that whilst there is build-up, it’s more complex, in fact too much so at times everything gets mixed up in the technicality, heaviness and shifting. I found myself appreciating passages, then it’s all change and the darkness never quite found majesty. The deeper “Behind the Veil” manages to get inside the veins as “Ghost of A Previous Nightmare” had done earlier. The fieriness can never be denied though and “My Soul Divided” embarks on another violent assault on the senses. Far more touching, in its thunderous way, was the final track “Insidious”, which achieves the majestic quality, which this album has suggested but largely bypassed.

For me, impressive as it is in intensity, this album got lost in its own heavy complexity. Atmospheric development is at a rare premium as “The Weight of a Thousand Suns” lives up to its name and hangs over us like a heavy stone, reflecting fire and frost at the expense of any semblance of sunshine.

(7/10 Andrew Doherty)