Review Summary: History in the making.
I wonder how many saw this coming sometimes. When Horrendous appeared in the endless crowd of OSDM revivalists, who recognized what they would now become？ The Chills
, a strong debut in its own right, seems a far cry from the likes of 2015’s Anareta
, and now Idol
, though it’s only been about six years between their first and fourth albums. Six years seems a long time on paper, but few enough have shown the growth Horrendous have in twice or even thrice that time. It wasn’t me that recognized it, I can tell you that. Much as I’d like to say I saw it coming, I could never have foreseen that a band peddling Swedish revival death metal for three straight releases would transition so quickly into potentially THE premier death metal act by 2018. That is a presumptive claim to make, one could argue, but damn it all. One day, Horrendous will be spoken of with the same reverence we now offer the likes of Morbid Angel and Death.
Despite what I’ve written so far, Horrendous do not peddle in pure and righteous death metal anymore. Rather, they have found the sacred elysium that lies between death metal of the original bloodline and progressive music. Idol
gives the sound of Anareta
, an already rare balancing of the two albeit with more favor to the death metal half, that final push into progressive territory. The old fashioned thrash rhythms of “Devotion (Blood for Ink)” slot in expertly next to the pyrotechnic phrasings and wandering basslines of “Obolus”, far better than the most jaded of contemporary metalheads could expect given the sheer volume of cookiecutter acts diluting these sounds. The atmospheric rumblings of “Prescience” juxtapose nicely against the more traditional “Soothsayer”, while the refreshing clean guitars of “Threnody” are a natural fit between two of the longest and most expansive tracks in the back half. “Golgothan Tongues” sticks out as potentially one of their best career cuts thanks to delightfully kooky rhythms and dazzling guitar leads.
The essential factor is that no matter when a song delves into progressive territory or 80s inspiration, there is something else that keeps it grounded. Most often, it’s the vocals and production that do that job. The dual vocal performance of Matt Knox and Damian Herring continues to be an understated trademark, each offering different things that blend together so immaculately that you would believe it was one person. Likewise, their combined range has seen an understated expansion as hoarse yelps play counterpoint to low growls, shrill screams, and even subtle clean vocals that crop up at times. Like Anareta
boasts impressively dynamic production that allows every instrument to shine while maintaining a sense of the pre-loudness war sounds. It is these two pieces that keep the rest of the album securely grounded while the guitar and drum work reach ever further outward, desperately needing that framework when they delve into unconventional song structures and dazzling technicality.
On first listen, it’s easy to wonder what Idol
does differently from Anareta
, and the answer is “not as much as you’d think”.The former mostly pushes the latter’s sound further in the direction it was already going, while refining key aspects. It seems a natural give and take, trading the refreshing surprise of Anareta
for refinement of that core with subtle advancements. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the odd accusation of “wankery” here and there, though I would argue passionately that Idol
is immaculately restrained in the midst of dazzling us with technical ability. The bottom line that is and will be the narrative of Horrendous’ career, beginning in 2015 and continuing at least to now, is of a reminder. Idol
is a reminder of times gone by, carrying the spirit and some of the aesthetics of a few extreme genres from the 80s and 90s confidently into 2018 without forgetting to impart something of themselves in it and push a few boundaries along the way. Lines can be drawn between their career trajectory and that of Death’s in more than a few places, for those with eyes to see. If that doesn’t give you some sliver of confidence in them, then I don’t know what will.