From his throne in Country Duhram in North East England, Christopher Walton, the sole arbiter of the entity TenHornedBeast, and also of the perhaps better known Endvra, has overseen numerous exploits of aural intrigue and mystery and his latest work, the third outing on Cold Spring, marks a further step in the evolution of his sound.
As contrived as it may seem on paper Hunts & Wars itself is a sinister, war-themed journey through desolate, windswept landscapes. Such themes typically conjure images of intense battle and bloodshed but THB opts for a different perspective; of the prelude and the aftermath, deriving inspiration from writers Robert E. Howard and Lord Dunsany. Going further beyond Sunn O)))'s well known brand of contorted malevolence, THB delves even deeper into the abyss, concocting surrealistic drones, heavy bass and swirling ambient with the percussion playing a particularly prominent and unusually vital role, never more so than on "I Am The Spearhead" whose thunderous, reverberating beats, emulates, perhaps unintentionally, the sound of blood-fueled jeering amidst the surrounding walls of a coliseum. It's really quite spectacular. Another album highlight, "Ironborn" becomes frightfully distinctive with its alternating war horn and ritualistic drums painting a vivid picture of a monstrous army marching a cold, pilgrimage to battle. There's nothing human about this record. Perhaps wisely, Walton has separated the protracted songs with shorter interludes, allowing for a (slightly) more approachable voyage than the equally superb richness of The Sacred Truth.
What's truly impressive though is Walton's ability to inject a palpable sense of variety into each track whilst maintaining that eerie sense of nothingness and death. It must be difficult to play host to a form of music that generally alienates even the most hardy of extreme music fans. Whilst brutal, mindless metal rakes in the numbers, music based on minimalism and soundscapes rarely finds a decent footing (most continue to toil in obscurity), regardless of the quality or subject matter. In all likeliness Hunts & Wars will remain such a record, despite being at the top of its game.