Horrendous caught many off guard when they dropped last year’s sublime sophomore opus, Ecdysis. The album blew away my modest expectations and cemented Horrendous as far more than your typical old school retro death act they appeared to be on their solid debut. Putting an innovative spin on their old school formula and heaving a weighty sack of delicious riffs, Horrendous took some gravity defying leaps forward to complete one of the more astonishing evolutionary strides I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in recent years. Now merely a year later, with barely enough time for the dust to settle on Ecdysis, Horrendous return in surprisingly prompt fashion with third album Anareta. I must admit quick turnarounds such as this fill me with equal parts excitement and skepticism, particularly on the back of the greatness of Ecdysis. So are the creative juices still flowing for the power trio on the all important album number three?
In many ways Anareta continues where Ecdysis left off while stirring some intriguing new ingredients into the stew. Whereas Ecdysis was a fun and rollicking ride anchored by glorious riffs and memorable songcraft, by comparison Anareta is darker, angrier and an altogether more intricate beast that cuts deeper on an emotional level. Notably Horrendous shoehorn a stronger melodic and progressive presence into the fray without compromising their iron grip of song-writing dynamics or their raw groovy approach to death metal. Horrendous hasn’t abandoned their old school ethos, but are simply too damn good and innovative to be pigeon-holed as just another retro death act. In particular the Stockholm influence has been scaled back in favor of a more twisting progressive style that recalls the genius of mid-late era Death. Adding further fuel to their supercharged engines, Horrendous balance old school inspirations with a distinct contemporary feel which finds them refining their sound into something endearingly familiar yet forward thinking, severing the rich bloodlines of death metal’s past and reattaching them to their own fresh blood supply.
Anareta’s strong melodic and progressive tendencies entangle around an aggressive death core that lovingly recalls but doesn’t tread on the toes of the bygone greats. Damian Herring and Matt Knox announced their superstar credentials on Ecdysis and continue their rapid rise here. Burly riffs retain much of the muscle, groove and catchiness of Ecdysis. Intoxicating leads and harmonies dart, spiral and pirouette through intricate melodic gateways featuring a myriad of tempo shifts, knotty twists and playful prog injections. The solos offer tasty, innovative punctuation marks while staying grounded within the context of each song. And if some of the riffs don’t deliver the instant ‘fuck yeah!’ rush of Ecdysis, they prove equally powerful and addicting over repeat listens. The easily discernible, mutating basslines play a key role in the album’s construction, further anchored by the accomplished work of drummer Jamie Knox. Vocals are an aspect of the Horrendous make-up that could be seen as a weak link, if the strained dual delivery wasn’t delivered with such venom, conviction and bloody throated rawness, with the occasional strained cleans well-placed and executed.
Anareta is a masterfully composed and intelligently written monster that grips from the energized, off-kilter thrash and rumble of “The Nihilist” right through to the somber notes and soulful doom-laden riffage of closer “The Solipsist (Mirrors Gaze).” While not quite as instantly memorable as Ecdysis, in comparison Anareta is a more layered and subtle affair, offering a richer in-depth listen that takes a bit more time and effort to fully appreciate and unlock the treasures within. However, the payoff is well worth the effort. “Ozymandias” and “Acolytes” feature dense and labyrinthine arrangements that pull together all of Horrendous’ song-writing strengths into powerhouse packages of death metal goodness.
Variety is present in spades, as the likes of “Polaris” attests with its warped mid-paced opening chug plowing into a blistering salvo topped with knuckle-dusting grooves and proggy interplay, while their penchant for writing interesting, evocative instrumentals shines again on the soulful and melancholic “Siderea.” Production-wise Anareta boasts a sound that somehow outdoes the critically acclaimed work on Ecdysis, featuring an equally dynamic yet somehow bigger and punchier sound that is both authoritative and comforting.
Horrendous have outdone themselves again and smashed out another brilliant album to enter the realms of the death metal elite. Anareta is a brutishly graceful death metal behemoth dressed in old school threads, that is every bit as compelling as its glorious predecessor. Now if you’ll excuse me, after all this gushing I need to take a shower. Get this fucking album.