Before my move to Japan six months ago, I spent many happy years in England’s North East, feasting on stotties and Craster kippers while participating enthusiastically in the unique drinking culture. The metal scene there is really rather good, though recently not many of the bands have made much of a splash outside the region save for pagan black metallers Wodensthrone. When I saw we’d received a promo from Newcastle-based Horrified, then, I jumped at the chance to review it. I knew of guitarist Ross Oliver from the splendid Vacivus (Hartlepool’s answer to Cannibal Corpse, who, incidentally, share Wodensthrone’s drummer), so I had high hopes for this death metal debut.
Contrary to Vacivus’ more contemporary sound, there is absolutely nothing modern about Horrified: from the riffs to the vocals to the production, the album is a tribute to late 80s/early 90s death metal. The Horrified lads have clearly spent plenty of time wallowing in early Death, Autopsy and Asphyx. “Tomb of Rebirth” kicks things off with harmonized guitars and sinister riffs ripped straight from Leprosy, “Narcolepsy” sounds a bit like Obituary might if they weren’t incredibly tedious, while “Mortally Deceased” and “Buried Among Putrified Flesh” add hints of early Morbid Angel to the mix. There’s nothing in any way original in the songwriting department, but the riffs are mostly good and the tracks well structured, if occasionally dragging somewhat. OSDM songs rarely warrant lasting longer than four minutes.
The biggest issue with this album isn’t the songwriting, though; it’s the performance. The guitars and bass are well played, with some neat bass flourishes at various points, but the John Tardy-esque vocals are one-dimensional and occasionally lag behind the music, making them sound labored. But the worst timing sins are, unforgivably, committed by the drummer. It’s apparent within the first 15 seconds of opener “Tomb of Rebirth” that all is not right in the rhythm section. These timing lapses are apparent at various different points during the album’s 32 minutes, usually coinciding with the sparser drum patterns, but occasionally sullying blastbeats too (e.g. the opening of “Repugnant Degeneration”). The drum arrangements themselves are unimaginative, mostly consisting of your standard one-two kick/snare combo (sounding more lethargic than usual from the lack of double-time cymbal hits), and many of the fills, such as they are, come across awkwardly.
Sound-wise, Horrified appear to have made a few drastic wrong turns on their way to Morrisound and somehow ended up at Sunlight Studios instead. The guitars have that wonderful, inimitable crunch that only a cranked Boss HM-2 pedal can produce; they lack body and the treble needs turning down a bit, but the clarity of the riffs hasn’t been sacrificed in the quest for filth. The bass goes missing for much of the record, sounding wooly and lacking punch, but it occasionally breaks through into your consciousness when bassist Dan H gets more adventurous on the fretboard. The drums are suitably punchy, though the kick drum is far too loud and clicky for my tastes, accentuating the aforementioned timing issues.
So, a disappointing debut from a band I had high hopes for. The songs are nearly there, but Horrified need to up their game significantly if they want to leave a mark on the already crowded OSDM genre. Buying a metronome would be a good start.