By: Daniel Jackson
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 25/03/2016
Label: Stormspell Records (CD),
Infernal Devastation (LP),
Till You Fukkin’ Bleed (CS)
While the straightforward death metal moments are very good, it’s those moments of downtempo grandiosity that separate Horrified from other modern day death metal bands. It’s in those moments that Horrified offer us reassurance for death metal’s future, even in being so reminiscent of its past.
‘Of Despair’ CD//LP//CS//DD track listing:
Palace of Defilement
2. Infernal Lands
3. Chasm of Nihrain
4. Funeral Pyers
5. Amidst the Darkest Depths
6. Dreamer of Ages
7. Of Despair
8. The Ruins That Remain
Dan Alderson | Guitars/ Vocals
Rob Hindmarshh | Guitars
Dan Hughes | Bass
Matthew Henderson | Drums
Changes in musical direction are nothing new in metal. In fact, most bands end up changing over time, often quite a bit. For some it’s much more abrupt. You could point to Metallica moving away from the dense and imposing thrash of ‘...And Justice For All’ to the ham-fisted arena metal of their self-titled album. Or, to make more relevant comparison for this review, it can happen the way it did for Hypocrisy, who moved from ugly, punishing death metal to a synth-heavy melodic death metal sound. Hypocrisy’s change was more of lateral movement, remaining firmly entrenched in the death metal scene, even while coming up with more accessible, easily-digested songs.
In the case of Horrified, and the their sophomore album ‘Of Despair’, the transition is a bit softer as they’ve retained elements of what worked on their début, ‘Descent into Putridity’, but have broadened their horizons considerably. They’re very clearly still a death metal band, and the album’s tempo is pretty similar to their previous material, but the guitars have taken a much more melodic turn, by and large.
I had a chance to check in with guitarist/vocalist Dan Alderson, and when I asked him about what led to this more melodic turn, he had difficulty putting a finer description to it. In his interview with Kat Gillham at IronFistZine.com, he pointed to Dan Swanö’s legendary “Edge of Sanity” as being a primary influence. When you combine that with a general change in listening choices, and that he wrote most of ‘Descent into Putridity’ at a much younger age; the changes make perfect sense.
Aside from “Edge of Sanity”, it’s easy to hear bits and pieces of any number of melodic swedish death metal bands as the album moves along, even if Horrified still work from a foundation built upon bands like Asphyx and Dismember. With Horrendous’ Damian Herring handling the mixing and mastering of the album, it feels like everything fell into place for this album and the result a huge leap forward for Horrified as a band.
That ‘Of Despair’ and Horrendous’ material share some common links shouldn’t be surprising, but the two bands are still different beasts. Horrendous, especially on ‘Anareta’, is a band straddling the fence between underground melodic death metal and the accessibility of 80s heavy metal and thrash. Horrified, on the other hand, walk a line between nastier, primal death metal and the swed-death which the two bands share in common.
When trying to find a couple of songs to act as a microcosm of the album as a whole, “Dreamer of Ages” and the title track stand out, not just as album highlights, but as the songs that best encapsulate the album’s overall diversity. “Dreamer of Ages” rages early on, with brisk thrash tempos and tremolo death metal riff fit for Sunlight Studio in 1990. Once the song gets to the halfway point the speed slows dramatically, and the song becomes a mournful dirge, bursting with phrased twin guitar leads.
When I asked Alderson about the role of each guitarist (himself and new guitarist Rob Hindmarsh) he explained their dynamic as follows: “Rob only tracked his leads on Of Despair. His solo work on the album gives the trade-offs a nice 80s feel, and I think his shreddy lead work trades off with my more phrasey leads well.” Alderson’s more deliberate and expressive lead work takes center stage on the album’s instrumental title track, a song I hope is a harbinger of what future material will sound like.
While the straightforward death metal moments are very good, it’s those moments of downtempo grandiosity that separate Horrified from other modern day death metal bands. It’s in those moments that Horrified offer us reassurance for death metal’s future, even in being so reminiscent of its past. The performances are imperfect, just like those of the subgenre’s pioneers, but ‘Of Despair’ is also gushing with melody and atmosphere; something that’s all too often lost in translation when the death metal bands of today look to the past for inspiration.
You will be able to preorder the album on CD here. Check back for vinyl pre orders here, and do the same for tapes here.
Band info: Facebook