On second full length Of Despair, Horrified majorly overhaul their throwback death metal sound. But to simply call it old school would imply it was somewhat devoid of any kind of melody. On the contrary, the addition of melody is the biggest change from the band’s straightforward debut Descent Into Putridity. It’s a huge step out on a limb for any band to drastically change their sound or think outside the box, but the band does it and successfully so here.
Crusty old death metal is seeing quite the resurgence and unless you’ve been under a rock, it’s been rather hard to miss. Not a bad thing at all, as long as care is taken to treat the material with respect and at least attempt to leave it better than you found it. There’s also a lot to be said for that extremely hefty sound that only some of the best classic death metal can provide. That’s where Horrified come in, their debut was bursting at the seams with the thick and filthy sound of days past. It wasn’t anything new but it also didn’t detract from the genre. However, with the influx of albums in this style simply playing classic death metal isn’t enough to stand out.
Enter Of Despair and the band have a different animal on their hands. Even though the bulk of the album retains the raw energy of early Autopsy and the thick buzz of Dismember it doesn’t take long to hear the difference. One listen to opener “Palace of Defilement” with its melodic and heartfelt solo work and there’s little doubt we’re in for something new. Later, on the waning moments of “Funeral Pyres”, the band’s forward approach truly hits the mark. The pace slows to a crawl and sorrowful guitar tones tug on the heartstrings as clean vocals send the song off as gently as an ash in a light breeze.
“Infernal Lands” beats with the heart of Dissection in its riveting black metal pacing and melodic choruses but twists it into something altogether exciting. It’s heavy as it can be yet has a captivating swing to it. The only drawback at all is in the vocals on the first half of the album. They sound buried deep in the mix, drowned even. As the album progresses this problem disappears but Dan Alderson has what could be considered as the voice for today’s death metal and doesn’t get to show it until the halfway point.
All of what has come before was but a precursor to the grandeur of album closer “The Ruins That Remain”. If there was one track to explain the impact of this album as a whole it would be this one. Savageness, melodicism, and emotional power all come together in this nearly eight and a half minute epic. Needless to say this is the albums highlight and for that matter it will be extremely hard to beat for this year’s best death metal track.
Of Despair is a multi-faceted sophomore album that takes many chances — all of which succeed. Instead of rehashing old glory, Horrified take their many influences and use them to create an album’s worth of refreshing, gritty and emotionally tinged death metal. They have indeed left the genre better than they found it and one can’t ask for much more than that.
Don’t miss our interview with Alderson (here), where we discuss Of Despair.