Horncrowned – Rex Exterminii (The Hand of the Opposer) Review

“Brutal” is a descriptor usually attributed to death metal, which, thanks to its bottom-end heft and juxtaposition of speed, definitely makes sense. You expect to be pummeled with dense riffs, abyssal growls, and blistering speed, the blunt-force trauma of being mowed down by a semi on the highway. To say “brutal black metal” is like being pummeled by razor blades. Black metal is not a internal bleeding type of genre, but one whose sinister tremolo, shrieks, and blastbeats imply scathing and sharp–a death by a thousand cuts. But if brutal is your cup of tea, intensity is the brand, fleshing out the bottom-end and pumping steroids into black metal clichés (if anyone has a picture of absolutely jacked Abbath, I would be much obliged). Basically Horncrowned.

Horncrowned is a black metal band from Bogota, Colombia, having released four full-lengths, three EP’s, and a split since their 2001 inception. Featuring members from other Bogota collectives like Inoculation, Daemoni, and Satanizer, Horncrowned features a crushing interpretation of the blackened arts in fifth full-length Rex Exterminii (The Hand of the Opposer), blistering blastbeats and scathing tremolo frolicking with brutal plods and crushing drums. In the vein of Inquisition or Archgoat, it’s an offering of unyielding intensity that satisfies mightily if you have a need for a blackened concussion, even if it does little to push itself and is held back by an overlong runtime.

Horncrowned is at their best in balancing the scathing and the plodding. When menacing rhythms courtesy of drums or riffs can land heavy blows beneath the ceaseless tremolo picking, tracks like the title track, “Ultima Combustione (Fire of Judgment),” “Armamentarium (No Salvation),” and “Confrontation (Pugnator & Mercenarius)” come alive. Benefiting from a powerful drum tone that keeps the intensity grounded and gives weight to the thinner tremolo, these tracks inject occultic hellish flavors of horror and ritualism a la Behemoth’s Demigod into an otherwise one-dimensional sonic palette. Furthermore, centerpieces “Unrepentant (Infestantibus Perditionem)” and “Incendium (Great Tribulation)” slow things down for exercises in dread that completely avoid war metal headache-inducers like Deiphago or Blasphemy. Solos never feel overdone, just technical enough to be impressive, adding to the sinister atmosphere of the album. Vocals, while certainly upfront in the mix, are vicious enough to add to the hellish tidal wave.

Rex Exterminii (The Hand of the Opposer), for all its good, is weighed down by its overlong runtime. In light of the ceaseless intensity for an ideally feasible 45 minutes, by the time we reach the closer, headache is almost unavoidable. Tracks like “The Second Death (Immitis Pugnae)” and “Burnt Offering (Holocaustum)” are all-out assaults on the ears that end exactly where they started, while “Crushing the Anointed One (Imperatoriae)” and the second halves of the title track, “Incendium…”, and “Confrontation…” are sunk by excessive repetition and awkward melodies. While the drums are extremely solid for plodding heaviness, they sound hollow when utilizing blastbeats. Likewise, tremolos wear thin, the top-heavy vocals start to grate, and the brutal tricks lose their novelty with repeated listens. Furthermore, while “Unrepentant (Infestantibus Perditionem)” and “Incendium (Great Tribulation)” offer a nice change of pace that happen to be the center of the album, it all feels like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive whole. Combined with the brutality, it feels as if it never goes anywhere, like an incredibly jacked hamster on its wheel. In light of 2020’s offerings, finally, Horncrowned does not hold a candle to frankly better black metal brutality in Anaal Nathrakh, Idolatria, or Fides Inversa.

If you’re looking for a blackened concussion of unyielding proportions, look no further. Horncrowned’s fifth full-length is a labor of malice, overflowing with intensity and brutality without ever falling into war metal monotony. While it certainly runs overlong, it nonetheless offers hellish soundscapes in its aural pummeling and scathing acidity, it will fill your laceration-shaped hole with ruthless precision. Sporting black metal clichés on steroids, it’s a muscular album with tremolos, blastbeats, and shrieks about as subtle as a crowbar to the kneecap. While truly the epitome of “brutal black metal,” it however offers little else of substance, ultimately resulting in an album that goes nowhere. Hop on board this brutal bus if you need to plunge headlong into a Colombian ravine and feel your skull smoosh on impact, but avoid if you’d like something other than the headache Rex Exterminii… offers.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ketzer Records
Websites: facebook.com/Horncrowned | horncrowned.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: November 20th, 2020

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