By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY — The saturated crunch of the Boss HM-2 Distortion Guitar Effect pedal is discernable to many shrewd fans of death metal. Pioneered by early Swedish output (particularly that recorded at Sunlight Studios) like Nihilist, Entombed, Dismember, and Necrophobic, it gave the music that buzzsaw crunch when all the dials (save for distortion) are cranked to 11. In the years since, it has been used by countless other acts including Darkthrone, Trap Them, Kvelertak, Baptists, Rotten Sound and Black Breath, growing to become an essential tool of the genre. In the case of American death metal band Horrendous, its usage is fitting given their subterranean sound. The band melds elements of Swedish and Floridian death metal with thrash thrown in and is heightened by cavernous production, thanks to the apt capturing by guitarist and vocalist Damien Herring’s own Subterranean Watchtower Studios. On their second full-length Ecdysis, the follow up to 2012’s underrated and excellent The Chills, they’ve again used this recognizable distortion, but added melody and texture to go alongside the demented guttural screams.
“We play in standard E tuning except for a few songs and, particularly on Ecdysis, we use a guitar tone that is still heavy but is crisp enough that the riffs are easily discernible. And yes, we used HM-2 on both albums, although the distortion is a bit less overwhelming on Ecdysis,” writes drummer Jamie Knox and his bandmate Herring, who responded via email. This was necessary as the band’s three members reside in two different cities, including Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
“The reason we chose Ecdysis as our title stemmed mainly from the lyrical themes throughout the album, but also the cover art. The term ecdysis does refer to shedding [of the exoskeleton], and this is in the context of growth and maturation. There are strong themes of progression and transcendence throughout the album, in terms of growing past aspects of society and common beliefs and ideas that are detrimental and restraining.”
The band’s musical growth and maturation resulted in sonic differentiation, such as the subdued, acoustic centre album track “The Vermillion,” which is brushed by the delicate sound of fingers sliding down the fret board. It’s also evident on lumbering album closer “Titan,” which uses numerous vocal tracks, layering warm, clean vocals behind the growls to heart-wrenching effect.
“We knew well before the recording process (after most songs were written, in fact) that this album would be different from The Chills (and this knowledge actually lead to some conscious recording and mixing/production choices), and we were glad because there’s no point in releasing the same album twice,” they explain. “Further differentiating the production of this album, we did have a few sound elements that we knew we wanted to experiment with and make different from The Chills.”
Despite that, their trademark spacious atmosphere is omnipresent.
“I would say that atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of our sound. I think the production continues to facilitate a permeating atmosphere throughout Ecdysis. We also focus on generating atmosphere via our compositions. We rely heavily on dynamics, bursts of melody, riff-laden aggression, etc., and try to synch up the themes and feelings we want to convey from the lyrics with the tone of the music,” they describe.
All in all, the band is extremely inward focused, although cognizant of their forbearers. The result is impressive, and Ecdysis is sure to appease those who enjoyed The Chills, and tire of the constant reunions of metal “greats” that push the genre further into regression by recycling old riffs rather than pushing boundaries in new projects.
“Horrendous is both our response to the greats who have gone before us and our own personal shout into the void,” they say. “At heart, we want nothing more than to do for other fans what those classic bands did for us.”
In that, they’ve succeeded.
Buy Ecdysis by Horrendous on October 14 from Dark Descent Records.AB, Alberta, Ecdysis, Horrendous