I love hearing bands broaden their musical horizons and experimenting with new sounds, or at least trying to incorporate something new to their own sounds. Behemoth did a great job of this when they made the transition from black metal to a more death metal-oriented sound. Darkthrone did it as well, just listen to Soulside Journey compared to A Blaze In The Northern Sky. Newcastle’s Horrified have also made quite a transition with their latest offering, Of Despair.
Horrified’s previous release, Descent Into Putridity, was a pretty straight-forward death metal record, in the vein of Autopsy, Dismember, and Pestilence. With Of Despair, though, Horrified have added a lot more melody, and explore a more blackened (albeit still melodic) tone, citing Dissection, Unanimated, and Sacramentum as influences. “Palace Of Defilement,” the opening track, starts things off on a somber tone, with a lone, clean-toned guitar (and a little added ambient noise in the background), before building up into a glorious wall of melodic riffing. The music then blasts full speed ahead in some blazingly fast, melodic black metal riffing, growled vocals, and frantic drums. The music throughout Of Despair is super melodic, thanks to the addition of keyboards throughout, but Horrified manage to keep their death metal roots in tact as well, as can be heard on “Amidst The Darkest Depths.”
The production comes off as a little too squeaky clean for my liking at times, making the music sound like it was heavily processed with Pro-Tools. The musicianship is good enough to allow me to overlook this, though, with the exception of the clean vocals towards the end of “Funeral Pyres.” I give the singer an “E” for effort, but really, his harsh vocals just work so much better on this album. With a little more tweaking, Horrified could really become a great blackened death band. You can tell this is their first go at playing black metal, but being experienced musicians, they do better than many artists that go straight into the genre as a black metal band from the beginning. Of Despair isn’t a perfect record, but is still very enjoyable, with some solid musicianship, and a good balance of brutality and melody.