Khors - Return to Abandoned
Paragon Records
Melodic Black/Death Metal
8 songs (42'25")
Release year: 2010
Paragon Records
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the year

It is one thing to surprise when you are bringing it out of left field and no one sees you coming. To make yourself notable first, and then fully deliver on a promise is a much tougher task. To be a Surprise Album of the Year a few years ago only to come up with an Album of the Year this time around is an outstanding feat, and a homeboy in me could not be happier that Ukrainians Khors were the ones to accomplish it.

Kharkiv natives Khors, in their usual fashion delivering an album towards the year’s end, did it with Return to Abandoned, and in the process they left the usual tenets of the Kharkiv scene and Eastern Slavic Black Metal behind. Gone are the outright folk melodies and native instruments, the music on Return to Abandoned is often hefty, massive wall of sound.

The album still has a lot of cosmic levitation moments and expansive sounds similarly to earlier breakthrough Mysticism, check Mysteries Cosmos and The Seas Burn of Omnipotence opening part. Yet with Return to Abandoned Khors manages not only to drown a listener with atmosphere, but to empower one, injecting significant amount of muscle in their beautiful images.

To those genre purists who might argue that Lost Threads and Asgard’s Shining might sound close to melodic death songs now, my only response is “so what?” There is still plenty of obscurity and mystery emanating from Khors, but gone are timid attempts at melodicism from their earlier recordings, there is boldness now equally expressed both in acoustic and double bass laden parts. And with newfound power, the images drawn by the band become more vivid. Guitar leads now are rivers flowing powerfully in the valleys (Lost Threads), and there is a moment in Asgard’s Shining when you feel your emotions stretched to the limit, the hope, the life itself, being pulled away from you. At the same time, true to their origins and Slavic spirits, Khors keyboard sounds are superorganic, often fitting in like a native sopilka or zhaleika (a native Ukrainian or Russian wind instrument for those who don’t know), providing the sense of desperation and longing throughout the album. As much as the imagery in Return to Abandoned is colorful, so it is diverse. The closer Sacrament of Buyan is so melodic it hurts, yet its melody is both hymnical and private at the same time. The Fog (… and Grief Still Moans) is rather ominous with its bearish gait. Song of the Void is doomy, twisted and progressive, the track having a feel of a live enchanted forest, its trees constantly reaching out trying to snatch you with their limbs, while mermaids are engaged in the constant maddening synth dance. Finally, you reach a clearing, on top of the hill, and the beautiful melody makes your heart rejoice.

To those who often decry the simplicity of Eastern Slavic Black Metal Khors provides plenty of experimentation. The closing keyboard solo in The Fog is pure Jon Lord and the seven minute long instrumental part of The Seas Burn of Omnipotence is probably the most liberating music I have heard in 2010, blending all kinds of guitar play from acoustic strum to flamenco.

I held out until the very last moments of the year to designate my Album of 2010 and I am glad I waited. Return to Abandoned is everything I hoped it would be, while it is also unexpectedly more. The only concern is Khors’ line-up shakeup, one of the main songwriters Helg no longer being a part of the band. Just when Khors is in prime position to go further with Paragon Records (count two earlier album reissues on the label), the line-up uncertainty may hamper the band going forward.

Killing Songs :
Lost Threads, Asgard's Shining, The Seas Burn of Omnipotence, Sacrament of Buyan
Alex quoted 94 / 100
Other albums by Khors that we have reviewed:
Khors - Wisdom of Centuries reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Khors - Mysticism reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
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