In the last few years, old school death metal has seen a resurgence in the underground. Gone are the bands trying to blast their way into oblivion by copying the NYDM sound, no more does every death metal band in the scene want to sound like Origin or Hate Eternal. Instead, Entombed and Death have become the ideal and this revitalization has been welcome to these Angry Metal Ears. I find it distinctly more giving to listen to the crunchy riffs and the cavelike production values than what a lot of modern death metal has become. But as has been noted, like any trend these things start to get too saturated and the listener tends to cool a bit on the new material that’s coming out.
Horrendous definitely fits into the old school trend that’s bubbling forth in the underground. The Chills is the band’s first full length, and musically, it is distinctively Floridian. But while the music is a throwback to late 80s/early 90s Florida, the production reminds me a lot more of the classic Swedish death metal sound. The guitars sound like they were recorded in an old warehouse, with a mic sitting on the other side of the room. The bass is fat and sounds slightly distorted, but sits well in the mix and the drums too are pretty wet with reverb. Even the vocals in their mid-range are reminiscent of James Tardy’s croaks, but sound like they threw their vocalist down a well before they recorded his takes. Take that reverby sound, some skull crushing riffs, ponderous melodies and shreddy solos a la classic Slayer or Obituary style and you’ve got your stage set.
For me, though, the charm of classic death metal is the song writing. What modern death metal lacks in dynamics and interesting song writing, the classics made up for in spades. Horrendous doesn’t quite live up to these standards, really. There aren’t a lot of great hooks or snappy chorus parts that pound out and pull you in. But that’s not to say that these guys don’t have anything up their sleeves. Tracks like “Altars” and “Fleshrot” clock in at 3 and a half minutes and knock out great melodies combined with cool rhythm and hooky melodies. And while there feels like there’s some filler, the two places where I ended up really impressed on this album were the final track “The Eye of Madness” and the track “Fatal Dreams.” While the former is a 9 minute epic with a fantastic melodic breakdown in the middle that I loved, the latter pushes into the more amelodic technicality of Death a bit and they both are strong for it. The high moments on these songs really are when the bass riffs along with the guitars. I came back to those both quite a few times.
Still, as much as I can see this pleasing the classic fan of death metal, I’m not super blown away. The song musicianship is strong, the production is good and has a quaint, low budget feel to it that rules. And while there are good melodies and great riffs, I spent most of this record waiting for those high points I mentioned earlier. That said, there is of course potential here. Horrendous is just a young band breaking out their first full length, so it’s worth saying that given the flashes of greatness that show up here, there could definitely be more to come from them. So while I’d recommend these guys to the death metal connoisseur (or the very nostalgic), that’s probably where I’d stop. Organize The Chills under “possible grower” and Horrendous under “bands to watch.”