Horrified-Of-DespairNewcastle (upon Tyne [UK]) based Horrified released their debut about a year and a half ago, and the AMG staff collectively shrugged. A throwback death metal record with some neat riffs and an authentic sound, it lacked in both originality and execution, and was summarily dismissed by yours truly. But wise old man of the AMG staff, Al Kikuras saw something in the band, a certain rough charm and attitude that’s missing in the majority of retro-death. If it wasn’t for Al’s sage words, I might have passed on reviewing Horrified’s follow-up, but his endorsement stuck with me and, combined with my soft spot for anything from England’s North East, convinced me to give the band a second chance.

Happily, Al is indeed wise—Of Despair is a huge improvement over their debut. Horrified are still peddling a similar OSDM sound, heavily influenced by Florida’s finest, especially early Death. But they’ve added several welcome new references that contribute to the musical diversity and depth of the songs. In particular they’ve added the kind of dissonant, and occasionally synth-backed sections pioneered by Pestilence, as well as some fantastic Dismember-style melodies and even the odd Peaceville Three doom/death passage. This new diversity, along with the generally improved riff quality, means Of Despair has no trouble holding your attention for the whole of its neat 45 minute run-time.

Not only do Horrified draw on a wider variety of influences, they have also found the confidence to experiment more as songwriters. Of Despair’s eight tracks are generally longer than those on the debut, with two breaking the eight minute mark. The first of these epics, “Funeral Pyres” appears half-way through the record and begins as a relatively run-of-the-mill death metal track before heading in more melodic directions. The song even strays away from pure death metal with some icy Dissection riffs. Passing through a frantic, dissonant mid-section, the final few minutes are some of the most melodic on the record, and would not be out of place on The Gallery or The Jester Race. It is much more successful as an epic than album closer “The Ruins that Remain,” which feels more repetitive and sluggish, though it features some nice Immortal riffing.

Horrified-2016

Part of this sluggishness comes from a slightly unstable drum performance. One of my major gripes with Horrified’s debut was the messy and unimaginative drumming, but I am delighted to say that, save for the anomaly on “The Ruins that Remain” and a couple of unfortunate moments at the start of the record, Matthew Henderson’s performance behind the kit is hugely improved both in time-keeping and invention. His loose feel adds to the record’s authentic old-school vibe rather than distracting as it did before, and he has obviously put a lot of thought into his patterns and fills, which add a little extra to the already strong riffs.

They’ve also nailed the production: the drums sound dynamic and natural, the guitars are sharp and Stockholmy, and with bass largely clear throughout. The addition of Pestilence-style textural synths (almost getting into Nocturnus territory on occasion) is welcome. The synths contribute some unsettling dissonance and depth to the sound, which, because of its old-school rawness, can be a little sparse and bass-light. The wide dynamic range is particularly welcome, allowing the natural dynamics of the songs to shine through (this was mastered by Damian Herring of Horrendous fame, and it shows).

Horrified should be very proud of Of Despair. They’ve gone way beyond my expectations and produced a record that, despite a couple of niggles, can compete with the best of today’s old-school death metal crop. Geet canny job, lads.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Stormspell Records
Websites: HorrifiedOfficial | Facebook.com/Horrifieduk
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2016

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  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    This is like night and day compared to their debut. They must have actually listened to the feedback the debut got.

    Or not. Wishful thinking.

    • Tom Hardy

      Well that’s the thing isn’t it. Why must an artist change their vision of the music they want to put out there because a fan wants it a certain way? Reminds me of the time Mike Smith said in an interview how the riffs/ music off a Suffo album were dumbed down so fans could understand aka get their music. No thank you.

      • Wilhelm

        Besides being creative, being an artist also means accepting criticism and learning from your mistakes. It’s your choice to what your strengths and weaknesses are and your intended application/outcome. I don’t think artists should pander to the masses, but if everyone agrees your guitar tone sucks but you think it’s great, you might want to buy new pickups.

  • Wilhelm

    Great old school pestilence vibe – I LOVE the production, vocals could be a bitter louder/clearer in the mix, but overall this is pretty neat.

  • AngryMetalBird

    this is good stuff, great production and also great review!

  • Tom Hardy

    After an OK season at the races, they didn’t just change management or drivers or anything but instead got themselves a different car manufacturer’s engine (from a more Finnish sound to Swedish). And with all those new regulations around the new engine, their move hasn’t paid off. Not one bit. Disappointing to say the least and pales compared to their demo and first album. Good luck being just another ‘decent’ far from unique HM2 pedal sounding outfit mates.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      I wish I could metaphor as well as Tom Hardy. It’s like he is Tom Hardly trying.

      On a more serious note, I also enjoyed their first release. This just sounds like a second-rate The Black Dahlia Murder with a deathier approach to production.

      • Tom Hardy

        That’s generous of you mate, thank you for the lovely compliment. Gonna pour me another glass of a 12 year Hibiki and raise a toast to you.

        It’s one of those things the band did, not as extreme as say old chaps Behemoth switching over genres from Blackmetal to a band that began to play flat Deathmetal riffs with a slight semblance to Morbid Angel. It’s an interesting discussion to be had, in the sense, wouldn’t they then cease to be what Behemoth was in the beginning? Why not go out there and call yourself something else you know? There’re always different ways to reason the why’s of the world and one of the many ways to look at it is there’s perhaps a sense of acute insecurity oiling those fret boards into giving in and riding the wave of an established name. It’s not uncommon as with bands like an Amorphis or Katatonia or Anathema and so forth or the very recent Convulse. But, I digress and shall go back to the drink. Cheers mate.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          Musical identity is a difficult topic to say the least. Though I do feel certain bands are able to make large changes without fully compromising their sound, and also make said changes for the better. Countless bands have proven that you can achieve an old-school death metal sound while still sounding unique, but Horrified seemingly didn’t get the memo with this release.

          On a side note, do you prefer new or old Behemoth?

          • Tom Hardy

            To me, their first 2 albums were sublime and hold up pretty well even today. The writing, drumming, composition. While they weren’t the best Blackmetal outfit back in the day, they were quite formidable.

            I’m in the absolute minority though who has never liked Nergal’s post-BM vocals, either because they’re too high in every mix or they don’t do it for me. As a matter of fact, goddamn off-putting if I may say so. Musically, post-BM Behemoth, turned polished, loud, clinical with no meat to hold my interest. If I ever need some Polish Green Tea Frappucino I try to hit up those strictly old baristas like the one off east Vader street on Azarath Ave or the place downtown on Decap street or Yattering place in Brooklyn. Speaking of Brooklyn, you get the best crepes all year round at that Dead Infection Waffles & Dinges cart on the G line.

            Polish BM of today is fantastic. A post for another day and time.

      • Not sure I get the Finnish sound from their first (the riffs are sometimes a bit Convulsey but way more old-school USDM to my ears) and I certainly don’t get The Black Dahlia Murder from this new one! Don’t get at all how y’all think the first album was better than this… the only thing that made the debut stand out was the shitty sound and sloppy drumming. Of Despair is hardly innovative, true, but the songs and playing are so much better. But eh, to each their own!

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Coulda thought of a better band name than “Horrified…”

    • sir_c

      Horrendous?

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Or “Horrific.”

  • This is great! It’s not going to beat Temisto as favorite osdm release this year, but it’s absolutely going to get lots of spins.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The review name-dropped so many great bands that I feel almost obligated to check this out if only to play the old “Spot the influence” game.

  • I am honored to be name dropped in such a great review. Many thanks and fine work!

  • Dan Alderson

    I’m the vocalist, guitarist and main composer of the band. I’d thought I would join in on the discussion and provide a bit of background to add fuel to it. Firstly, I’d like to thank Jean and the AMG staff for their praise in the review, I was quiet took back you enjoyed it so much.

    Okay so I have to admit to finding Tom’s comments to be pretty amusing, in particular the HM2 clone remark. Especially considering the early material had a much more classic “buzzsaw” guitar tone with the HM2 used on max settings and recorded in a crude manner. This time we recorded way more clincally and only used it as an overdrive pedal to add colour to a high gain tone. We don’t even use the HM2 live anymore and we won’t be using it on our next release. I’m sure me and Rob will have fun bringing the house down with our Engl and Messa amps when we tour to support the album shortly.

    Descent Into Putridity was bassicly a college project, I was hardly into my 20s and had only recorded a full length once before. Our drummer had also never recorded to a click track before either. At the time I was proud of the album due to putting a lot of work into it, but in hindsight it is pretty bad and unoriginal. But a lot of people seem to like bad and sloppy osdm due to been bored of over technical and fake time edited performances that happens far to often in metal these days. Although I hate that album these days I’m still happy with the introduction to the scene it give us and how it’s let us take a massive step foward with this album.

    We are already writing for our third full length and are progressing into something with an even larger and dynamic range of influences, we aim to take just as a big step up, if not an even larger one than we took from Descent to Of Despair for our next effort and I already think the material is going to be a lot more orginal and diverse than the material presented on Of Despair.

    Anyway I hope that provides people with some insight and thanks for everyone’s support and comments.

    • Thanks for the comment and insights Dan! And thanks to you and the rest of the band for such a cool record. Hope I can catch you on tour – don’t suppose you’ll be venturing down south at all?

      • Dan Alderson

        We have unfortunately had to pull out of the London date of our tour in April. Hopefully we get asked to come down to the capital again once the new album starts making the rounds. The last time we were down south was March last year when we played with Ninkharsag. It would be cool to meet you and share a few beers, cheers!

        • Ah shame – I’ll look out for any other dates I could possibly make!

      • Lucas Lex DeJong

        I always find it hilarious when the English describe coming “down south” or any such venture, when I think the entirety of your country is shorter than the yorke peninsula in south australia, a drive I make occasionally for a weekend of diving.