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Dark Descent (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

Praise be to any band that can go by such a wonderful moniker. But then again, it’s not as if this American bunch is churning out country ’n’ western music.

As you may have guessed by the band name of this trio, Horrendous is a gore-obsessed death metal slap in the face, and Ecdysis comes two years after the 2012 debut The Chills.

Now, 2014 has already offered up some truly punishing death metal releases, with some of my favourites being Rude’s Soul Recall, Incantation’s Above All Else, and Autopsy’s Tourniquets, Hacksaws And Graves to name just a small amount. So, for Horrendous to get anywhere near that festering pile of rot they was going to have to release a truly remarkable album, and while it’s fair to say that Ecdysis isn’t the greatest outing of the year, it’s still a mighty fine follow-up to that debut.

What strikes me about these East Coast guys is their ability to inject some really infectious stuffiness alongside that old school dryness. I have images of Death and Pestilence flirting with a raw, harsh black metal essence of morbidity, but the next there is some deep, almost hidden chamber of traditional heavy metal, with the result being a weird hybrid of lo-fi thrash and engaging accessibility.

I’d heard about these guys a few years ago and I always knew that their sophomore opus would finally put them on the map. With its dry, straining vocal style which brings to mind Martin van Drunen (Pestilence, Asphyx, Grand Supreme Blood Court, Hail Of Bullets) and a thickening, catchy sound which one moment adopts an old school Swedish styling of thrashing gallop, and then the next offers a choking doom metal melancholy, Horrendous is one of those clever contemporary bands that has looked at its record collection and thought, “I wonder what would happen if we tried to put all of these influences together?”. And the outcome is of course this visitation to the days of old school death metal.

Dark, sombre yet progressive solos, murky yet battering percussion and an almost no frills stuffiness coupled with technical prowess, has also resulted in some truly dazzling numbers, from ‘Weeping Relic’, with its differing co-ordinates of doom and horror-soaked vocals, to the slower, thoughtful sombreness of ‘Heaven’s Deceit’, with its underlying whispers of gloom and cavernous bass tumble.

‘The Vermillion’ is a sweeping acoustic instrumental which props up the mid-section of the record before the oncoming terrors of ‘Nepenthe’ with its aching, groaning fuzz, and then the stark approach of ‘Monarch’ with its purveying sense of gloominess from that meandering lead.

Horrendous should be successful with this nod to the late 80s and early 90s if only for the ability to still, unlike so many other bands, produce catchy, yet not generic riffs, and I’m pretty sure that if this had been issued in the late 80s then many years later we would be heralding Horrendous as kings of the genre. However, these guys probably weren’t even born then, so they’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for and Ecdysis does this to its maximum ability. Sit this alongside Derogatory’s Above All Else (2013) and we have two fantastic old school revivalists taking old school death metal to the next level.

Neil Arnold

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