Hailing from France Embryonic Cells have been spreading darkness since 1994. It took them 13 years to release an album. Horizon is their fourth album since 2007 and is actually a lot of fun.

This is no bleak , orange squeezing underground release. This is pomp and splendour Black Metal from the Dimmu Borgir end of the spectrum. Big well produced drums, synth sweeps and vocals that seem to mix Shagrath and John Tardy.

Opener “Crossing” is the atmospheric fluffer for the main event. “Don’t Serve the King” kicks it hooves against the stall and gallops out in full Black Metal fury. Speed picking guitars and guttural vocals drip over the bombast. More “Stormblast” era here. The synths lend an eerie bit for this stallion to chomp on.

“Carved in My Skin” opens with a Tom Warrior style riff. I await an ooogh but none comes. What does is a slab of melodic black death with a head banger of a rhythm.  It’s one of those infectious tunes that gets feet and neck moving at the same time. The synth breakdown means that the vinegar strokes are delayed but folks need summat to wave their mobile screens at.

“Never Let You Fall” and “Across the Mountains” bring out the badger corpse paint and a reason to crab walk.  Galloping riffs in the former and a chant worthy chorus whilst the latter conjures up fantastical Nordic wastelands filled with warriors and trolls.

The title track is atmospheric and pulls back the production a little for a more raw sound, rendering the vocals indecipherable and other worldly. Nice touch.  The track segues into “To Horizon” which opens with what sounds to me like a coffee percolator. Must be my ears. Synthesized strings build to a gothic dirge, a lament with double kick. Then a 180 turn into an Amebix style dark crust punk track with deep demonic vocals. That’s more like it. Chop off the first couple of minutes guys we gotta rager here!

“No Boundaries” is the closer. A mid paced rock track with some chant vocals and organ sweeps. It feels a little everything but the kitchen sink. Bell sounds, synth strings, rasped vocals, chants, sweep picked riffs. Too much. Sometimes less is more.

Embryonic Cells have released an interesting album with some truly great moments. It doesn’t sound organic and dangerous but rather theatrical and gregarious. I left its horizon feeling entertained and energetic.

(6.5/10 Matt Mason)