Defy the Curse – Horrors of Human Sacrifice Review

It’s essentially become a heuristic in metal circles that any band following the verb-the-noun name template should be assumed to play some sort of metalcore or deathcore until proven otherwise. In fact, it’s common for “verb-the-noun” to be used as a derogatory descriptor for stereotypical bands of said style and said naming convention. The phrase conjures images of hyper-polished modern metal impregnated with breakdowns galore, and many self-respecting metalheads avoid these projects—for better or worse—like the plague.1 When I saw the name Defy the Curse while perusing the promo bin, I nearly made the aforementioned mistake. Fortunately, I took another look and took a chance on these guys. Let’s see if they can defy the heuristic.

Hailing from the Netherlands, Defy the Curse is here to both confirm and deny the above rule of thumb with their debut full-length Horrors of Human Sacrifice. While they do indeed play a mashup of death metal and hardcore, they are in no way a stereotypical metalcore or deathcore outfit. This metal/core hybrid sounds like the rumbling Entombed-meets-Discharge style of a band like Black Breath mixed with hints of Tragedy, and it’s as punishing as it is fun. Opening single “Leading into the Realm of Torment” is only two-minutes long, but you’ll probably only need to hear the first fifteen seconds to know if Defy the Curse is your jam. The track’s crusty buzzsaw bounce is briefly interrupted at the midpoint for a doomier death metal-plus-solo section, and it lives up to its name by being a perfect introduction to the rest of the album.

Clocking in at thirty-five minutes across twelve tracks, Horrors of Human Sacrifice would be a hard-hitting, wham-bam-thank-you-person outing even if it wasn’t as diverse as it is. There are plenty of tracks, like “Existence Consumed” and “Endless Curse,” that don’t stray too far from the crusty death core of the band’s sound, but a lot of these tracks bring other elements to the table to elevate the material. “The Oppressor” reverses the formula of the embedded single by starting and ending with a big, chunky, mid-paced rumble that’s bisected by hard-charging punk. “The Tower of Suffering” brings some almost sludgy death ‘n’ roll to the table, “Swarms” is a classic Swedeath tune, and the title track sounds like HM-2 death metal by-way-of Florida. Closer “Dreameater” is the only track longer than four minutes, and is therefore the “epic” of the album, playing its role nicely by ending with a subdued atmosphere that practically begs you to play the record again.

I have very little to complain about on Horrors of Human Sacrifice. As mentioned above, it’s a concise, diverse set of tracks, and those characteristics mitigate any potential flaws. With the album’s focus on mid-paced atmosphere between its more brutal, breakneck moments, there’s certainly opportunity for momentum to be interrupted, but all in all, I’d say that Defy the Curse has struck a great balance here. A couple of the tracks are less noteworthy than their standout counterparts, but they all contribute something to the visceral experience of a full playthrough. The production is very good, the buzzsaw rumble is just so, so sweet, and the combo of death and hardcore vocals makes for a dynamic listen. Fans of the style are going to enjoy this whole thing, but the best cuts for my money are “Leading into the Realm of Torment,” “Endless Curse,” “The Oppressor,” the title track, and “Dreameater.”

Defy the Curse may not be breaking the mold of heavy music with Horrors of Human Sacrifice, but they defy the verb-the-noun curse by delivering an extremely well-executed stab at a combination of well-worn styles. Fans of HM-2 Swedish death metal and crust punk alike should find this a satisfying way to begin their year.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Hammerheart Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 13th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. Speaking of The Plague, if you like that band, you’ll probably like Defy the Curse.
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