March 21, 2024

Crystal Horizon are a new young group from Kristiansand in southern Norway where its four members came together while they were studying for music degrees at the local University. The Norwegian prog scene is perhaps best known for bands with a retro ‘60s and ‘70s feel but Crystal Horizon’s influences are much more modern – they cite Leprous, Porcupine Tree and Radiohead as inspiration, and you can hear those influences in this their five-track debut EP.  

The band looking for a crystal horizon? (Photo: Lilly Aurora Berg)

The first track, Fate, immediately recalls Leprous to mind as Bjørnar Skatter Kolbjørnsrud opens the song with a high-register vocal and phrasing that is pretty identical to Leprous’ Einar Solberg. So much so that I had to double-check I hadn’t put a Leprous album on by mistake! The song follows a Leprous template too in terms of its unsettling rhythms and keys, as well as the use of vocalizing in the middle section as the song moves towards a powerful conclusion. Despite the evident homage to Solberg and friends, it is an excellent well-crafted song, and the biggest compliment I can pay it is that it would sit comfortably on a Leprous or Solberg album.

Stuck is a curious piece. It’s all strange time signatures, jagged guitar chords and a big Radiohead-style minor key chorus. Despite the unsettling rhythm, it manages to be melodic at the same time.  This is the song that Crystal Horizons chose to promote the EP, although personally I would have thought Flashbacks was a better choice. This one is built around similar jagged guitar chords to Stuck but has a fine strident melody which makes it a little more memorable. In contrast, All My Dreams uses bubbling synths which give it a slightly different feel, even if the group’s penchant for strange rhythms is still present.

The above tracks are fairly concise affairs and it’s only in the last song, Where You End, that they extend their scope a little to just over six minutes. It opens with an oddly doom-sounding guitar phrase that is then revealed as the main melodic line for the verses. There’s a startling change from an anguished minor key to a warm vocal at one point and the song then develops into a good groove – perhaps the only part of the EP where Chrystal Horizons use a straightforward regular rhythm.  

Lyrically, the band describe the EP as dealing with ‘the periods in life where it feels like time almost stands still, both in your personal life and because of the destructive events happening around the world. The feeling of wasting your dreams and life itself, without being able to do anything about it is very present in some of the songs.’ That rather miserable theme is all too familiar in modern prog, and I wish they’d varied that a bit and written a song about a cheerful day on the beach at Kristiansand or similar!

These five tracks demonstrate that Crystal Horizon have all the attributes needed to develop into a strong modern prog rock band. Like any debut release, the influences are easy to discern, but none of these songs are bland or predictable and there are some impressive moments. Definitely worth listening to if you like the influences mentioned.