Pinning together the mindset of folk with the constantly evolving nature of progressive rock, Ben Trickey & Burnt Sky were able to release a record that experimentally will, in my opinion, never be dated. Horizon Line Fires exists in its own realm of music, because that’s what the members of the band wished to do when they set out to make the album. The ethereal and almost primitive feel of Horizon Line Fires is partly due to the fact that the usage of electric instruments is brought to the minimum; other than that we have acoustic guitars and violin, and extremely layered vocals.
The album opener “Howlin’” is a perfect example of the atmospheric power of the group. Where other bands are concerned with emotional impacts, Ben Trickey & Burnt Sky have rather side-stepped that motive and are instead focusing on transporting their listener to another plateau. Horizon Line Fires is not so much a record as it is a vessel for transporting the listener to the artist’s own realm of violence, fantasy, and nature.
The complex, energetic drumming gives the album a tribal feeling that along with the twisted folk melodies creates a perfect dark atmosphere. Horizon Line Fires sounds like the music that should be played at a bizarre pagan ritual in the middle of a dark forest, complete with human sacrifices.
Despite the grim atmosphere, the music is actually very upbeat and catchy which helps bring to life the images of pagan festivals, almost making it seem as if the listener is at one himself. All of the melodies, often played on violin are completely memorable and brilliantly written. The songs vary in length from 2 to 11 minutes, but the music still manages to be very accessible if you can get past the bizarreness of it.
The lead singers, Ben Trickey and Tiffany Leigh Blalock sing in a quite unique style. The singing fits the music, sounding equally as demented and sinister, but the odd style could mean that it’s an acquired taste for some. However, there are some very catchy vocal melodies that you could even sing along to — at least if you want to sound like a psychopath to anyone close by. The fine examples for this are “Burning Hell” and gloomy “You’re Killing Yourself.”
“Oh, Captured Grace” is easily the album’s centrepiece. It is a serenely beautiful eleven-minute suite with allegorical lyrics, creepy atmosphere and shimmering vocals. Somewhere at the middle the song gets quite a bit experimental and psyched out, while still keeping its chilling vibe. The closing “To Be Good” feels surprisingly optimistic; it’s stripped down acoustic folk piece that brings Horizon Line Fires to a pleasant closure.
The vinyl edition of the album that we reviewed here also includes a bonus track titled “Soldier,” which closes the A side. The record was released through Anthem Breath Records, pressed on a beautiful transparent blue with black smoke vinyl. Photos of the vinyl edition of Horizon Line Fires can be seen below.
In the midst of the modern “folk revival,” acts like Burnt Sky seem more relevant than ever. Although its roots go back to over 40 years ago, with Horizon Line Fires, Ben Trickey & Burnt Sky establish a foundation of sprawling, untraditional arrangements and use them as spring boards for even stranger lyrical and musical themes. To be fair, be it 1971 or 2017, I can’t imagine a record as beautifully odd as Horizon Line Fires ever losing its appeal.
Horizon Line Fires is available from Bandcamp here.