Originally written by Matt Longo
Just as my last review for Ereb Altor mentioned Bathory reverence above all else throughout their work, the latest from the Ukranian Khors reflects Nokturnal Mortem, a band 10 years their senior. Interestingly, where NM has NSBM ties (however tenuous and/or exclusive to their music itself), Khors professes to have no political ties. All the better, because from what I hear through Wisdom of Centuries, the students have surpassed the masters.
Most important: They use atmosphere perfectly, regardless of fidelity. The guitar is vibrant and pushed to the front lines, and the keyboard — while sparse — feels deliberately so. You’ll feel light sprinklings throughout “Black Forest’s Flaming Eyes” but unless you have a solid listening system, parts will be missed (like half the drums in the last couple of minutes). I know it’s cliché, but I had dramatically different experiences between a home stereo, car stereo, go-to earbuds, standby earbuds, fiancé’s earbuds, and the favorite: my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headset. To me, this presents more of a problem than a challenge, especially for less diligent folks who may dismiss the album as poorly produced; an exercise in subtlety, it is not to be ignored nor passively explored.
The mix actually seems to improve as the album progresses, though. “The Last Leaves” is scintillating, as its boldly breakneck charge slows to comfortable canters, with interlaced synth that grows subtly louder with each pass. And be sure to hold tight when a mighty neigh — from a creature who seems more zephyr than horse — harbingers the crushing concluding minute.
You will owe them salt.
Back to the atmosphere, and something else that should not be dismissed: the arrangement. It’s imperative to imagine this sequenced as a two-sided LP, rather than a CD, because then the twin mid-album instrumentals strike not as filler, rather bookending the individual ‘sides’ of the album. “Where the Grandeur of Mountains Embraces the Space” has a beckoning essence that envelops the listener and draws him forth to the other side, where the curiously-titled “Horizong Glassy” awaits, awash in lush continuum with clean keys and dreamily lilting guitars; it could easily be a lost treasure from The Fucking Champs.
The seductive title track plays with your senses, taking two minutes before swinging into a lurching, growling groove punctuated with piercing synth strikes that jizzlob straight into my ear, as though culled from the great Roddy Bottum. And again proving no stranger to animalistic samples, crows cackle the wayward doomed during a brief respite.
But then, dudes… then… hooboy. “Only Time Will Take It Away” is just. fucking. perfect. The initial setting; the echoing ebb and furious flow; the fleeting keyboard beacons; and then a proper departure with “Twilight” — not just an outro, but a portal back to reality.
Most — if not all — of Khors’s members’ other projects were birthed in their Ukranian motherland; some had stints in Astrofaes or Hate Forest or Blood of Kingu. (Drudkh was also claimed in advance promo materials, though I can’t find supporting evidence.) Wisdom of Centuries may be album number five for the Khors clan, but I think the revamped lineup has found the formula for their most engaging endeavor yet.