Review: Horrendous – Ecdysis
“Ecdysis is the moulting of the cuticula in many invertebrates… Since the cuticula of these animals often forms an inelastic exoskeleton, it is shed during growth and a new, larger covering is formed. .”
In layman’s terms, the good ol wiki defines the word as when an insect or other invertebrate sheds its skin to grow further. With their third release, “Philthydelphia” death metal trio Horrendous have cracked open the old shell of OSDM worship and emerged as a bigger, stronger version of itself. Horrendous still has the look of the genre, but the scope is bigger and more vast, and the vibe is something much more sinister.
Album opener “The Stranger” doesn’t so much fade in as shambles in, like a solider stumbling into a rickety house, his body ridden with gruesome injuries from waging war against an unseen enemy. The seven minute plus track takes its time to establish its atmosphere of terror. A creepy spoken word passage later, and the main riff and double time drums explode into action. It isn’t all Dismember style obliteration at all cost though, as little solos are strewn about the song and it often stops to have another spoken word passage. Still, the intensity never lets up. Hell of a way to open an album.
With the following three tracks, the record continues this path of not-quite-pure-OSDM structure. Small elements, such as the slightly off kilter drumming and brief moments of d-beat stomp in “Weeping Relic”, or the B-Dubs worthy groove that opens “Heaven’s Deceit” insert themselves amongst the riffing and soaring leads. Take note: this album has a lot of leads, though they never grow tedious or wear on your senses. The last minute and a half of album highlight “Nepenthe” for example is one of the best instances of a melodic passage in extreme metal I’ve heard in quite some time. This is akin to a sadist rubbing balm on his victim’s wounds so that they can heal just enough for the incisions and pain to begin anew.
In fact, these leads serve to prove a point; that melody is as much a part of the bands genetic makeup as the HM-2 pedals they so lovingly abuse. Horrendous are taking melody in death metal to its natural extreme; this isn’t the watering down of a sound like some would have you believe, this is a different kind of terror. One with a charming face, offering a warm welcoming hand and a smile to you while hiding the chloroform drenched cloth in the other hand behind its back and a ton of syringes and knives underneath its jacket. Dissection understood this, but so few other bands took the lessons to heart when they stole everything else from Nodveidt and company. It is good to see the two extremes blended so well here.
Do not fret however. The band hasn’t forgotten that this is a death metal album. The chilling (see what I did there?) cries at the end of “Resonator” firmly restates this genre’s original purpose to terrify the listener; gore and absolute hopelessness in audio form. It very much feels like the band was saying “We are as scared shitless of the music as you guys” and all of the anguish pours out of the speakers at that very moment. It helps that Matt Knox and Damian Herring are two of the best in their genre in terms of their vocal range and enunciation; the piercing cries that emanate from their mouths sound genuinely blood curdling and not at all goofy.
And then there’s “When the Walls Fell”. After the 20 or so minutes of vicious Stockholm riffage that has transpired thus far, the band does a complete 180, puts away the buzz-saws (and vocals) for two and a half minutes, and get their inner Preist on, guitarmonies and all. It’s in this brief respite that Horrendous best shows their innate ability to absorb the best bits of metal’s bloodsoaked past and carve something new, or at least more compelling, out of it. The track is air-guitar inducing trad-metal goodness but still unmistakably a product of their own. Horns up, fellows.
The record does have two flaws though. The first and most glaring are the song lengths. Only two out of the albums eight tracks go past the five minute mark. I understand Horrendous wanting to trim the fat and make leaner songs, and other bands of this ilk could certainly learn from this disciplinary tactic (looking at you Tribulation), but the band’s music wasn’t “fatty” to begin with. The offerings on “The Chills” were just the right length without overstaying their welcome. The mature songwriting combined with longer length could make for something truly special next time around. But as they are here, you will not be bored, but rather hungry for more bloody meat. This somewhat leads into the second flaw; the remaining two songs aren’t as strong as what came before it, though album closer “Titan” is notable in that it is a very mournful sounding dirge. The victim has crawled through the muck and escaped the filthy catacombs and its unspeakable landlord; covered in blood and grime, missing an eye, a couple of fingers, and maybe a kidney, but still very much alive. They have went through a painful unenviable ordeal, undergone a transformation and came out stronger for the experience.
Overall Ecdysis finds Horrendous, screeching with righteous youthful anger, crawling out of the cocoon sporting a new pair of wings. I have no doubt that in about ten years people will talk about them with the same reverence that they speak of Dismember and Dissection now. Or rather in ten years the band will be leading a swarm of huge powerful grotesque flying creatures much like itself, devouring all in its path.