Horrified - Of Despair - (8/10)
Published on April 28, 2016
Sometimes associations can be helpful, yet other times they can be a liability. So, to clarify for anyone wanting to make the comparison, Horrified and Horrendous are, sad to say, two different bands. Sure, both employ the infamous HM-2 guitar tone, have similar vocal approaches, and pretty much exploded structurally after their debuts, but stylistically, there isn’t anything that bridges the canyon separating the two bands. It might be painfully easy to draw comparisons based off so few elements, and indeed, other notable bands crop up as well, but it’s important to see them as stylistic influences, yet even more so as to how the band combines them to form their own unique sound. This, as well, is the difference between Horrified’s two albums—one is safe and unchallenging and the other significantly varied and unpredictable—and it’s the reason that has now put the band on the death metal map.
That “unpredictable” part just might be the defining word across the entire album, as the territory covered on Of Despair is surprisingly vast yet it is explored thoroughly. Connecting so many disparate dots is a task that Horrified makes seem easy, as they bookend catchy Swedeath riffs between atmospheric doom and jubilant styled Deceased rhythms and leads that, stylistically, have a more traditionally snobbish manner about them. The opening track, “Palace of Defilement,” informs us of these intentions, shreds its way to victory, and drops us off at the door of “Infernal Lands” only to repeat the cycle.
Keep in mind that the emphasis is always on melody, which is a point the band makes clear regardless of where they draw inspiration, and it fits in perfectly with the harsher themes, giving an impression of Unanimated’s earlier works, specifically, Ancient God of Evil, mixed with the punch of modern day Entrails. With guitar tones, too, that despite their HM-2 orientation seem somewhat cleaner, as well as the explicit—almost excessive—focus on melodeath, Dismember’s Massive Killing Capacity is ultimately what comes to mind, even when the band explores more progressively inclined avenues (e.g. “Amidst the Darkest Depths”) that give reference to Edge of Sanity.
Because of all this blending, without heavy reliance on a single reference point that could easily spell disaster, Horrified has taken full ownership of the material with a capital C. Of Despair can just as gracefully rip your throat out as excite your death/doom libido, yet it also takes steps in new directions while exploring paths that are still new even for the band. There is indeed a distinct level of confidence on display here, not just from a songwriting standpoint but also from a technical level, with thoughtful drum fills and patterns that add significant weight to an already dense sound, which all together makes Of Despair very much the complete package yet suggestive of greater things to come.