There’s a time to laugh, and a time to cry. There’s a time to stretch the boundaries of metal, and there’s a time to stay the course. There’s a time to get grandiose and expansive in a review, and there’s a time to just sit back and admit that To Fathom The Master’s Grand Design, the latest from Danish purveyors of blackened filth Horned Almighty is breaking no new ground, but remains deftly executed and full of evil, evil chops that will raise hairs on the backs of folks who live for gloating, leering metal burnt black.
Almost six years have passed since World of Tombs, and in that time Horned Almighty’s music has lost a little of the Motörhead rattle and roll, and instead picked up a healthy dose of razor sharp blackened death and thrash. But, the sentiment that was present all the way with the wonderfully titled debut Black Metal Jesus is still there. Which is to say, this is a healthy dose of in your face Satanic black metal that knows when to really slam that d-beat (“The Great Death”) or lay into those open minor chord riffs (“Witchcraft Demonology”) or simply blast your face off with vitriolic rasps and snarls (pretty much every song). If you’ve come to experience expansive song structures, unique instrumentations and arrangements, or lyrical content about the inner struggle to reconcile the heart and the mind (thanks, METROPOLIS) you’ve come to the wrong place. Lyrically I can’t fathom a single thing on To Fathom The Master’s Grand Design but reading the titles and listening to the buzzsaw guitars and screaming, burning witch interludes complete with chanting and forlorn bells I think I can figure it out.
There’s a bit of a false start when it comes to opener “Violent Cosmology;” it plays fine, and in fact is one of the fastest songs on the record, but it’s also one of the most pedestrian, “I’ve heard this before” songs on the albums. YMMV, but things pick up a great deal on “Apocalyptic Wrath” which goes with a similar vibe but brings back that black and roll sensation to keep the menace and filth rolling in a groove that doesn’t relax things but brings an added layer of blunt trauma. “Antagonism Eternal” fares just as well, with some ominous bass pervading the soundstage, not to mention a mid-paced menace that presages the maelstrom to come.
At about the midway point of To Fathom The Master’s Grand Design you do start to fathom it: you fall into Horned Almighty’s rhythm and cadence and feel a part of the tried and true formula the band is packing into every note. For me this came with “Devouring Armageddon.” Where you rise (or fall) in the band’s black magick depends on your tolerance for the decidedly old-school metal the band is peddling. Is it going to break down barriers and light the way for the future? Nope. But it’s gonna make me pump my fist for the duration of its runtime, and not regret it afterwards.
Sometimes that’s enough.