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Let's face it, people: this whole old school thing, whether it's called 'revitalist,' 'retro,' or whatever term that's being forced into the metal glossary as I type, isn't going away. Some have had hard time coping with this fact, but I must ask, why? After all, this nostalgia phenomenon has produced some of the better records of the last few years (including but not limited to Antichrist's Forbidden World, Ghost's Opus Eponymous, and Enforcer's Diamonds) and introduced younger metalheads to the classic bands that inspired them. Until now, I haven't felt that any death metal album of this nature has succeeded in quite the way those aforementioned releases have, not favoring the Incantation worship of bands like Disma. That, however, has changed with Horrendous and their debut.
The Chills instead opts for a sound forged from the glory of early Death and the melancholy vibes of early Swedish death metal. The guitar tone is thick and vibrant in the rhythms but positively dreary in the leads (reminding me of the balance Septic Flesh struck on their mid-90s releases). Songs wind their way between blistering, thrash-influenced passages and doom-laden, cavernous corridors (just see the nine minute "The Eye of Madness"). The vocals are just about as pure as the genre can offer, crushingly growling with zero mercy--or surprise from the listener. The production values couldn't possibly be any better, staying true to the original sound of albums like Leprosy and Severed Survival while utilizing the clarity that modern technology offers. The songwriting isn't as strictly structured as you might find in Schuldiner's old troupe, though, often sprawling beyond the constraints of a normal track and voyaging beyond their simplistic strategy.
The individual tracks are a tad less memorable by nature, but I think the great flow of the release more than makes up for it. It's altogether consistent, but a few notable highlights certainly reveal themselves as one voyages through its vile contents. For one, that intro to "The Womb" certainly won't fade from my memory anytime soon, slowly churning in desolation before exploding into a riff you might hear on Scream Bloody Gore. "The Somber (Desolate Winds)" turns that method on its head, systematically rabbit-punching the listener in the face with its initially punishing rhythm before slowing to an emotion crawl. Personally, I always perk up in the middle of "The Ritual" when song breaks out into a full on assault about midway through. In between those tracks lie more concise numbers like "Ripped to Shreds" and "Altars," which function well as brief asskickers alongside the more developed songs.
Horrendous loads the entire songlist up with winners, clocking in at forty-three minutes of near perfect death metal no fan of the genre should miss. I'm almost surprised it's from the US and not Sweden, a country accustomed to making tried and true efforts of this bloodstained breed. As it stands, though, The Chills is a monumental testament to the relevance of the revitalist movement and an eyebrow-raising debut in a world where so few have existed as of late. It's the kind of album I rarely tire of and the first great release of 2012. A safe buy for everybody who appreciates the form.