By: Daniel Jackson
Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 27/10/2015
Label: Dark Descent Records
There’s so much to enjoy and unpack as I listen to this album again and again, because every song offers a new wrinkle to the formula or another compositional element that most bands wouldn’t think to use. It’s so fucking rich and dense. To put a finer point on things, ‘Anareta’ is the sort of album that lifts death metal as a genre up. It’s everything I could ask of a death metal album in 2015 and there’s virtually nothing in metal as a whole that’s in Horrendous’ league right now
‘Anareta’ CD//LP//DD track listing:
1. The Nihilist
6. Sum of All Failures
7. Stillborn Gods
8. The Solipsist (Mirrors Gaze
Damian Herring | Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Matt Knox | Guitars, Vocals, Bass
Jamie Knox | Drums
What a difference a year makes, when it comes to the landscape Horrendous finds itself in. It was around this same time that Horrendous released ‘Ecdysis’ upon a largely unsuspecting metal press and garnered both exuberant praise and equally insistent jeers from people proclaiming the hype was the product of the metal press hivemind. Putting aside the absurdity of blaming a hive mentality for a lot of people liking an album you’re not into, the truth is that there were some people that weren’t sold on Horrendous the last time around. No band’s ever gotten universal praise, and I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong for disliking them if you do. What I will tell you is that Horrendous prove with ‘Anareta’ that they aren’t content to stay a part of the recent wave of early 90s Death nostalgia, along with Morbus Chron (now defunct) and Gruesome.
Instead Horrendous has taken that sound and created something of an alternate universe where the transition Death made from ‘Spiritual Healing’ to ‘Human’ manifested itself in a very different way. It wasn’t even remotely fair to say that Horrendous was a Death knockoff before, and even less so now, but Death maintains a sort of ideological kinship, in terms of their shared willingness to explore the greater possibilities of the genre. You’ll hear the influence in places—the opening riff in “Polaris” is a dead ringer for the opening riff “Spirit Crusher”—but there is also a lot more going on here.
One of the biggest differences from last year’s ‘Ecdysis’ is a heavier focus on big twin guitar melodies, though it sounds less directly linked to Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden and tied to 80s Metallica and 90s Opeth. Take “Siderea”, which features some of the finest riffs on the album, a rarity for an instrumental on a death metal album. The opening riff would feel at home on an album like ‘Morningrise’, production differences notwithstanding. Once the tempo breaks, the guitars channel a style approaching that of Metallica’s ‘Ride The Lightning’, or the most melodic moments of ‘...And Justice for All’, thankfully stopping well short of mimicry.
Another big difference, and this might just be perception rather than reality, is that ‘Anareta’ sticks to moderate tempos for the bulk of almost every song. In this case, it’s to the album’s great benefit. When they do break out the speedier thrash or blasting tempos, it’s at the right time for the right reason. Where so many death and black metal bands struggle with keeping songs interesting at sub-thrash speeds, but Horrendous lets their song writing ability carry the weight where most others simply don’t have the song writing chops to maintain the excitement level without speed. Take “Ozymandias” as an example. The tempo doesn’t really pick up until well into the second half of the song, and even then it’s only to sustain the high of the massive, slower moment that precedes it. If you imagine all of the great mid-paced moments that Opeth conjured in the late 90s and early 00s particularly on ‘My Arms, Your Hearse’ and ‘Still Life’, the climax of “Ozymandias” is up there with any of them. The brisk speed that follows that musical high note seems to be there to prevent an abrupt comedown, whether a conscious decision made by the songwriters or not.
Horrendous as a band, and ‘Anareta’ as an album makes me think about the entirety of death metal as a genre. That’s because Horrendous incorporates so much of the genre’s many elements into one sound so seamlessly. Whenever I hear or read someone complain that death metal is out of ideas, I often think they’re not giving the genre credit for how far it’s already come. Death metal casts a pretty wide fucking net when you consider how many different sub-niches there are. Horrendous has found its own corner of the death metal world by blending that early Death sound I talked about earlier with the confident bombast of prime Metallica, and the best of Swedish melodic death metal. They’ve carved their niche deeper by having two distinct voices capitalize on the emotional depth of their music, with the tortured Van Drunen-esque howl of Damian Herring, and the rabid snarl Matt Knox, who’s as good as Tomas Lindberg was in the 90s.
There’s so much to enjoy and unpack as I listen to this album again and again, because every song offers a new wrinkle to the formula or another compositional element that most bands wouldn’t think to use. It’s so fucking rich and dense. To put a finer point on things, ‘Anareta’ is the sort of album that lifts death metal as a genre up. It’s smart, but never devolves into pretentious note-mongering. It’s got that feel of a classic album, without resorting to doing it off the back of another band’s work. It’s everything I could ask of a death metal album in 2015. Only time will tell how this one will stack up against ‘Ecdysis’ years from now. I can only say that I feel even more strongly about ‘Anareta’ now than I did ‘Ecdysis’ when I reviewed it last year. There’s virtually nothing in metal as a whole that’s in Horrendous’ league right now.