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Devoid of any original concepts or ideas, The Chills is yet another milestone in forgettable(and super hip) throwback death metal that is all the rage right now. Hailing from all across the US East Coast, Horrendous could not have picked a better time in Death Metal than right now... especially since they can't go back in time and release this in 1989, where it firmly belongs. Highly dated and inconsistently performed, The Chills feels old and tired right out of the gate, and although it picks up steam near the end, the album never escapes the miasma of "been there, done that, moved on."
Slow, ponderous Thrash beats lead this exhausted march through death metal's gloomy history. Horrendous drummer Jamie Knox deserves a medal for putting up with this affront to his ability as a musician. Or perhaps he lacks ability? Hard to say, but the soul crushing boredom he must have endured is worthy of legend. How many thrash beats can you fit into a single album, and more importantly how do you convince a drummer to play almost nothing but them for an entire album? The Chills is ingloriously mid-paced for much of it's running time, and never reaches that sweet spot of tempo and aggression that makes for the best death metal. It just kind of plods from one riff to the next, held together with the bare minimum of connective tissue like so many horribly shredded arms caught in so many grinding gears. It doesn't help that most of the vocal delivery is firmly in the John Tardy school of mentally disabled yelping and grunting. Occasionally the band make use of a perfectly competent guttural growl that sounds powerful and deep, but never long enough.
This of course leaves the guitar and bass work, and in total fairness to The Chills, it is obvious from the beginning that this album was built as a guitar driven one. And at times the guitar work on The Chills is pretty impressive, particularly the solo work. At times channeling the early work of Chuck Schuldiner, the creepy, soaring guitar solos and leads on tracks like "The Somber(Desolate Winds)" and "Fatal Dreams" evoke the proper kind of nostalgia: namely, reflecting on that which was worth reflecting on. I have no problem admitting that for me, Death Metal did not exist until New York and Finland started making it. The early First Wave death metal bands from Florida and SwedDeath bands have never played a style of death metal that I prescribe to: too thrash-y, too slow and too devoid of atmosphere. The Chills is firmly planted in this school of death metal... for the first half anyway.
The Chills takes a surprising turn when "The Ritual" kicks in. The Entombed and Obituary influence gives way to the crushing rhythms of Asphyx and Rippikoulu. All the postured darkness becomes actual evil, and the lessened presence of thrash becomes a God-send. Doom infused and full of Hell, "The Ritual" is a massive highlight, and kicks off a much stronger second half of The Chills. It's as if the band realized the first half of the album was little more than toothless genre worship, and unleashed all of their inner hatred into a second half designed to blot out the first tracks as though they never actually existed. Too bad they did.
The Chills is not without charm, particularly with the albums strong second half picking up much of the slack, but it still feels tired and uninspired. A notch above pointless genre rehash like Morbus Chron and Misasmal, but well below the likes of Morbid Flesh or Execration, Horrendous have managed to keep themselves from drowning in a sea of imitators with The Chills. But the sea is rising, and those who cannot swim shall be swallowed up in the deluge. The Chills would not be my choice of flotation device.
originally posted at http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/