REVIEW: HORRIFIED – “Of Despair”
Horrified is a young Death Metal band hailing from the UK. With only four years on the scene, the band has already released one major full length album and a couple of minor releases. Now, they are back with their new sophomore album ‘Of Despair’. The four-piece is fronted by Daniel Alderson (Starborn) on vocals/guitar, and consists of Rob Hindmarsh, Matthew Henderson (Plague Rider, Live Burial) on guitar and drums respectively, and Daniel Hughes (Winds of Genocide) on bass. I first caught wind of this band in 2014 with their debut full length album Descent into Putridity that showed great potential. The band demonstrated good musicianship and understanding of Death Metal as they combined various styles of different scenes to create a filthy and vicious offering. However, the album lacked cohesion among the various influences the band tried their hands in. Thus, the consistency was somewhat compromised but that’s fine for a debut album. Horrified returns with an excellent follow up that fixes those issues by focusing, polishing, and refining a Death Metal album that is well paced, written, and have a more directed musical identity.
The sound you can expect to hear on ‘Of Despair’ can be loosely described as Old School Death Metal (OSDM). However, to simply tag the band as OSDM revival does not do their new album justice. Horrified definitely plays a more melodic brand of OSDM similar to some relatively new emerging bands like Horrendous, Sulphur Aeon, Coffincraft, and Bastard Grave. Similar to Descent into Putridity, the band blends various styles on this new album but this time, the primary focus comes from the more melodic side of Swedish Death Metal with the addition of American, German, and Finnish styles. ‘Of Despair’ is a well recorded homogenous mixture of classic Swedish OSDM sound, catchy riffs, and melodic interludes that does not get carried away and sacrifice the robustness of Death Metal which many modern Melodic Death Metal bands fail at. The album has a fitting crunchy production and is generally mixed well to give a tight, compact, but still relatively raw sound that is completely complementary to the style.
‘Of Despair’ starts off with a clean guitar intro on the track “Palace of Defilement”. The listener then gets introduced to the heavy sound of the band which goes off into this well picked, disjointed riff pattern which blazes into the OSDM aggression you would find on a Dismember or Uncanny record. The aggression is then coupled with overlayed riffs that brings adds melody to the Obscure Infinity-esque sound. The guitars on ‘Of Despair’ is the centerpiece of this album. Daniel Alderson and Rob Hindmarsh create the soundscape where the riffs can shape the tracks. Horrified effectively places the guitar riffs where they need to be to provide direction. On “Infernal Lands” the guitars helps create the contrast between the fast and build up sections, comparable to bands like Obtenebris, with the slowed down, almost Melodic Death/Doom like, sections where the guitars add weight to the sound like Fleshcrawl does. The malleability of the track gives the drums and vocals opportunities to add more stylistic ideas which the band uses to their advantage. Daniel Hughes gives a great bass presence as he is integrated well into the music. The track “Admist the Darkest Depths” has a fantastic bassline that really brings the listener’s attention closer to the music.
“Chasm of Nihrain” and “Dreamer of Ages” are the most classic sounding tracks on this album, reminding me of bands like At the Gates, Gates of Ishtar and early Sentenced. The band wastes no time to deliver doses of energetic riffs and tight solos. The track “Dreamer of Ages”, in particular, showcases Horrified’s abilities and the qualities of the album. Each member shines on this track as the band is able to create attention grabbing tension as well as calmer, sustained melodic lines. The listener gets carried to “Of Despair”, the Heavy Metal inspired instrumental title track, which has a nostalgic and reminiscent feel to it. The two longest tracks “Funeral Pyres” and “The Ruins that Remains” demonstrate the band’s ability to progress and grow the tracks as they adapt and change to create variations in the sound. The various stylistic influences can be heard throughout these eight minute songs, especially the Finnish influences from the first two Amorphis records and early Insomnium, and American influences from a sound similar to Symbolic-era Death. Underneath all the riffs and Daniel Alderson’s excellent raspy vocals, lies the incredible drumming of Matthew Henderson. The drumming is the non-stop driving factory that propels the band forward on any given moment in ‘Of Despair’.
Horrified did definitely improved on their new record. However, some of the old issues on Descent into Putridity still exists as there is still room for improvement. ‘Of Despair’ is paced fairly well but the consistency in some parts of the album is a little shaky, particularly in parts where the band slows and quiets down. The latter parts of tracks like “Palace of Defilement”, “Funeral Pyres”, and “Dreamer of Ages” can be further polished with nuances. Especially for “Dreamer of Ages”, as I was anticipating a return to the intensity displayed in the beginning of the track. There are a few mixing issues I had on some of the tracks where the vocals gets a little buried and could be brought more in the foreground or the drums are too loud as it overpowers the guitars and vocals with its pummeling. I must applaud the gentlemen in Horrified for creating a sound that I felt is much needed in the current Melodic Death Metal genre. The current genre is saturated with bands of the “Modern Melodic Death Metal” sound.
With ‘Of Despair’, Horrified is created a well-balanced album that can be aggressive, energetic, melodic, and coarse at the same time. By taking cues from old school classics and new school tactics, Horrified stands out of the crowd as the band creates that stays true to the genre but does not overdo itself. ‘Of Despair’ is an excellent modern example of how good Melodic Death Metal can be that both old and new fans of the genre would enjoy.