After the release of “The Chills” two years ago, Horrendous received a lot of critical acclaim. It is no surprise then, that the follow-up album, “Ecdysis”, is highly anticipated by many. Admittedly, this is my first experience with the band, mainly because a lot of currently hyped up death metal doesn’t do much for me. Nevertheless, I took the plunge on this album, and it’s worth saying that this is no ordinary death metal. In fact, this album is like nothing I’ve ever come across in death metal before. Not only are the death metal elements of the album multi-dimensional, but there are plenty of outside influences on the album as well.
The opening track, “The Stranger” displays this better than any other song. It opens with some doomy leads that do a fantastic job displaying how heavy the guitars and drumming are. This section shows an excellent melodic side to the band that few death metal groups have. Later on in the track, the lead guitars show some blues influence as well. Most of the song is a stomping affair that never gives a dull moment. It’s so unlike any typical death metal track that you have to think for a second before you can bang your head. It certainly isn’t exceptionally technical, but it does provide some very progressive tendencies. Based on this description, one might expect the album to be a prog-fest, but Horrendous really never commits to a progressive sound; instead, they experiment with a variety of different influences. “Weeping Relic”, for example, is more of a punkish affair, with some energetic drumming not unlike what could be found in crossover thrash.
Surprisingly, some of the best work on the album isn’t even death metal. Both instrumentals are highlights on “Ecdysis” because they show the unbelievable command that Horrendous has on songwriting, music theory, and performance. “The Vermillion” is a short acoustic piece that continually adds new layers of guitars. The song builds to an exceptional climax, and its only fault is that it ends. The other instrumental, “When The Walls Fell” goes in a different direction, showing some speed/heavy metal riffs. Again, this is not what one would expect from Horrendous, but the song is so well written that it draws no complaints from me.
The above descriptions might worry fans of the band because, after all, this is supposed to be a death metal band. The good news is that the band provides plenty of aggressive riffs. They might not be all-out speed, but death metal is at the forefront, even if the band can often delve into huge spacey solo sections, or unconventional sounding moments. The somewhat weaker emphasis on death metal is offset by the individual performances of the band members. The vocals are sick and twisted, not unlike Chris Reifert’s. The guitars, while great in their death metal respects, are unbelievable when soloing (which happens often). They display magnificent melodic sensibilities. The bass playing makes quite a few appearances on this album, and goes beyond following the guitars (though it can do that as well). The drumming is more than adequate, though it is outshined by the guitar work, which will always catch your ear.
“Ecdysis” is an album that is truly a landmark for death metal. It manages to move the genre forward, while not foregoing any of the essential elements. It does not set out to simply copy what came before, nor does it make a mockery of the subgenre by making it sound ridiculous. While not every track can be as strong as “The Stranger” or “Nepenthe”, Horrendous has clearly found something that works for them. Unless you seek death metal that solely apes the founders of the style, this album is likely going to leave a positive impression. “Ecdysis” is a must-buy record for all death metal fans in 2014.
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"When The Walls Fell"
4.5/5 or 90%.
Written by Scott