Horrendous is one of the most exciting bands in the entire realm of extreme metal. In the past decade and a half they’ve given us three really solid LPs and two noteworthy EPs. Their 2018 release on Season of Mist, Idol, was particularly stellar. It was one of the very best death metal records of the year and I still listen to it often. With Idol, the band found themselves with an increasing amount of press and noteworthy buzz. Well justified.
I was lucky enough to get a copy of Ontological Mysterium early in the summer and it’s been a regular part of my playlist since. After hearing this record dozens of times, I’ve come to the conclusion that I actually think this newest release tops Idol, by just a hair. This band, known for taking risks, really outdid themselves and have given us a record that is easily going to be in the Top 10 best of the year on so many lists.
The record opens with “The Blaze,” a two-minute cut that really gets your juices flowing as it builds from a whisper to a scream. Screeching lead guitars whisk you right into the uptempo banger, “Chrysopedia (The Archaeology of Dawn).” This track features a massive amount of riffs, solos and varied wishbone leads. It doesn’t leave a single dull moment. This is all on top of the fierce rhythm section that is anything but ordinary. “Chrysopedia” is a song that you’ll want to listen to with your headphones on so you don’t miss any of the varied sounds that fills this track. There’s a lot going on, yet it is all clearly deliberate and carefully put together at the same time. How this band managed to write a song like this is beyond me, but that’s likely one of the reasons I’m writing about metal and not actually playing it.
“Neon Leviathan” is a darker track that’s one part Motörhead, one part Cynic and a whole lot of Voivod. “Preterition Hymn” demonstrates that the band can slow things down as well and still be quite heavy. The climax of this track is particularly compelling and anthemic as Horrendous just sweeps away your consciousness in the final 90 seconds. This band is so great at getting your adrenaline going and then gently taking you back down, leaving you both breathless and satisfied at the same time.
Songs like “Cult of Shaad’oah” and “The Death Knell Ringeth” are love letters to '90s death metal but with a more modern sound and slightly-altered sonic recipe. It appears the band deliberately looks towards the future of composition and songcraft but maintains a clear grounding in the work that’s come before them. This is, perhaps, one the reasons why this band has become so adored over the past number of years. Horrendous is new and original but also familiar. That’s the hook that reels you in right before they take you on this completely wild ride as you listen to them.
Somehow these guys can take Iron Maiden, mesh it with '90s prog-influenced death metal masters like Atheist, dispense with traditional metal song structures and create something that you’ve never heard before. It’s the ever-so-apparent musicianship and obvious close study of metal that seems to allow this foursome to give us nine tracks of brilliance. Even with all the influences you can clearly hear in Ontological Mysterium, it’s hard to say this record is like anything else out there.
All in all, this is a must own. No question about it. And if you haven’t seen the band live, you’re missing something really special.