What a fascinating proposition, Horrendous are. Ecdysis is the second full-length release from these US exponents of old-school death metal, and with it we have an album that is a frankly stunning example of how your influences can be combined into something greater than the sum of its parts.
The intro to ‘The Stranger’ unfurls like a red carpet to welcome you into the inspired world of Horrendous. And when I say “inspired”, there’s a sense that you can gleefully spend the next 40-or-so minutes picking through the rich and varied musical soundscapes to identify the bands, scenes and eras that have contributed to the final product. Whilst that might not sound like a recipe for clichés and tired concepts, the reality is bewilderingly far from that.
From the start, the dual guitars possess that buzz saw quality that fans of Entombed would instantly recognise. That it doesn’t just end up sounding like Entombed is testament to the skill these guys have in expertly crafting a song. The sound is meaty yet groovy, and ‘The Stranger’ can lay claim to a certified earworm of a riff. When the tempo picks up, the raspy yet clear vocals are reminiscent of Chuck Schuldiner, and things are frequently close to the sound that Death brought to prominence.
Influences and homages aside (if that’s possible – or even worthwhile), the guitar solos are tremendous and ‘Weeping Relic’ is home to a couple that perfectly counterpoint the fuzzier buzz that keeps the album ticking along. It’s strange that an album can be so readily complimented for eschewing technicality in lieu of a more simple linearity but when reprising that old school death metal sound, the prominence of churning riffs and perfect melodic composition make this a classic.
‘Nepenthe’ has the supreme harmonies of Heartwork-era Carcass and ‘When the Walls Fell’ possesses the same charm as some twinkly Van Halen. It sounds like a right mess on paper but I can’t think of any album where the tracks have so grabbed and entertained me on the first listen. A healthy dose of doom shoots through ‘Pavor Nocturnus’, yet it still treads that line between throwback and improvement on the original. Even the presence of ‘The Vermillion’ – an acoustic instrumental number – doesn’t escape the nostalgia vibe, with some particular string plucking putting me in mind of Puddle of Mudd. Wasn’t expecting that, to be honest…
Basically, it’s an amalgamation of loads of things I love, yet it also has to be one of the most addictive records I’ve heard in a long time. This is an album that will unquestionably feature amongst my favourites of 2014, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a record that became a staple of countless other collections all around the world. A future classic.
Review: Alex Bishop
When the Walls Fell