Album Review: Horrendous – Ontological Mysterium

Album Review: Horrendous - Ontological Mysterium
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Horrendous are a name in extreme metal that have been seeing their name grow slowly over time and not without good reason either. Formed nearly fifteen years ago back in 2009, Horrendous originated from Pennsylvania, United States, now residing in South Carolina, and have a number of releases under their belt now. Per their death metal origins, we got their debut full length work, The Chills, back in 2012, yet my knowledge of the band began in 2014, not long following the release of their second record: Ecdysis. That album in particular struck me for how different it dared to be and, looking back, we can see hints towards the band’s future progressive nature already here. We got Anareta in 2015 but three years on, Idol was released and might be their most important record yet whereby Horrendous fully embraced their progressive element to ravenous praise. A full five years on, Horrendous at last unveil their fifth full length album, Ontological Mysterium, slated for a mid-August release, continuing their contract with Season Of Mist. Let’s delve in to see what this record holds in store for us.

If there’s anything you can say about Horrendous lately, it’s that they refuse to stick to any expected trajectory per their songwriting. The band’s increasingly progressive tendencies have enabled them to carve out their own niche amongst extreme metal and ever since Idol dropped back in 2018, that has only become more cemented. The opening two minute track says just as much too; rather than belt us with a blistering piece, the band opt for a more subtle and accessible introduction that eases us into their sound and demonstrates how Horrendous are berry much at home with their progressive style by now. Let’s make no mistake however, Horrendous’ style is still very fast as showcased by the immediate next track following their opening yet devastation is not the foremost priority with their sound now. Listening closely, we can infer Horrendous are seeking these days to envelop their audience in a crunching yet comfortable soundscape whereby, fans who’d wouldn’t normally opt for progressive metal would find themselves fully on board with Horrendous’s songwriting.

I think Horrendous have reached a point in their career where they’ve really got the progressive side to their sound down to a fine set, mainly because the band don’t follow typical progressive rules for how to write metal. Almost in contrast to most progressive death metal, the songwriting here feels completely natural to conventional death metal and yet we can still recognise the progressive element bleeding into every moment of this record. Whether it’s in the alternating riff styles, differing pacing levels or how the band flip back and forth on atmospheres ranging from maniacally blood-drunk to more introspective horizons, Horrendous manage to make their progressive tendencies absolutely seamless to the core of their songwriting so, I’d wager most fans of death metal would find themselves very happy with how Horrendous would make them feel. It’s because Horrendous don’t beat us over our heads with their progressive ability, it’s a well written part of their chemistry now but the band know full well what their audiences like to hear.

Album Review: Horrendous - Ontological Mysterium

The production on this record is absolutely outstanding, primarily due to how the band have ensured their performance isn’t just heavy and exudes a crunching aesthetic, but it’s the sheer clarity by which everything plays, and plays together to establish this record as a sonically visceral punch to the jaw. Idol was a huge step in the band’s progressive direction, yet it’s the production work applied to Ontological Mysterium here that feels to have absolutely excelled Horrendous’ ambitions to what they have been striving towards. From the riffs to the drums and the vocals, every single element the band exude here punches you not merely with force but through striking clarity. It’s as if Horrendous removed the fourth wall between themselves and us, literally seizing us through the record and pulling us in, enveloping us as we’re brought to bear with the record on all sides of our being. I’ve always believed the sign of a great album is an incredible ease of listening and Ontological Mysterium assumes that notion completely.

Something I’d argue aids Horrendous here too is how most of their songs are under five minutes long; the band don’t fall into a common progressive pitfall and massively elongate their songwriting for the sake of progressive elements. By keeping their tracks within a reasonably digestible length, it ensures audiences aren’t going to become switched off by listening to segments that wander and meander for too long before returning to the crux of a track. It also forces Horrendous themselves to keep themselves under control, so any progressive aspects they want to bleed into their songwriting needs to be written cleverly so as not to lose their audience’s confidence whilst still exuding a powerful performance anticipated via their death metal ability.

In conclusion, Ontological Mysterium is an absolute triumph for Horrendous. Personally, I’d deeming this as an Album Of The Year contender; the experience one has with this record is so seamless yet you still receive the full brunt of their performance without needing to try. You could be sitting down at home totally motionless, stick this record on, and understand you’ve just listened to one stellar album that’s managed to effortlessly merge conventional death metal with progressive components; it’s like the band weren’t even trying, it just oozes out of them so naturally by this point. Considering that this album isn’t even forty minutes long, it guarantees repeat listens for Horrendous saw to their songwriting herein that it would never be anything remotely harbouring on the senses; its like slipping into a well-worn suit that just feels right to have on. Riffs and drums and bass possess such a clarity to their performance that it’s hard to turn away for the band have rendered their instrumentation with a binding power that sees it all hit you as one cohesive unit. I think this it, this is the record that sees Horrendous at last become the progressive force they’ve wished to become. Idol is where we saw those first steps begin, but Ontological Mysterium is where Horrendous smashed all expectations. Incredible.

For all the latest news, reviews, interviews across the heavy metal spectrum follow THE RAZORS'S EDGE on facebook, twitter and instagram.