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Old school refers to the way things were made in a passing time or the ways laid upon by the founding fathers of a specific art or craft. When concerning death metal old school is about how bands from the late eighties and early nineties transformed the world with a new extreme musical genre. These selected few procured new ways of pushing metal further and ended up creating very specific geographical and stylistic scenes. Twenty years passed and suddenly new bands have bases to work upon while trying to create something new. Bands like Horrendous who come by and splatter the entire pallet in your face with hybridizations of old school styles glued and pieced together like a meat puppet. A buzz saw guitar here, thrashing beats there, a mix of Floridian riffs with a scent of rotten European death/doom, and an olden sound stage to assemble everything together. This is the essence of the new school, and most importantly that of the band’s debut album, The Chills.
The filthy marionette begins moving at the sound of an eerie lead guitar that entrances you for a while until the drums demand some movement from your weary body. Suddenly the strings are tightly pulled and the buzzing sound of the lead guitar starts doing its work on your flesh. Filthy raspy tones from a sore throat complete this hellish picture and you witness the full might of the raging opener, “The Womb”, with its dragging of bones towards the end. It’s only but a second of respite before the following, “Ripped To Shreds”, enters the scene and does exactly so with its furious up-tempo rhythm. The chorus is intense as is the headbanging fury you’re submitted to during the more hefty moments. These two tracks embody perfectly what this album is about and utterly show all the collected elements bind together. They don’t show much of the slower and doomier pace sometimes employed by the band, as that is saved for numbers like “The Somber (Desolate Winds)” or “Fatal Dreams”. The first is mainly a fast number with a snail paced mid-section that brings about some of the more melodic leanings of the band, while the later does its best to fool you with its raging beginning. It twists itself and convolutes but finally gives in to the slow death halfway through, showcasing the band’s instinct for tapping a doomy vein with style. Strangely melodious it rocks your cradle gently and you give in to the upcoming demise.
This album continuously exercises the stylistic concatenation brewed by the band along with their appetence for writing filthy hooks and ensnaring riffs. Varying and circling around their influences they travel along the tight and sharpened canyon formed by the passage of whirling winds. Once again the flesh is tormented by cries of anger and despair disguised as friendly, as “Fleshrot” suddenly mutates into a distressing number that again intends on dislocating your neck from the rest of the body. The punishing rhythmic section and crude guitars never avert from ripping a new hole in your armour as you try to move along, be it by the apparently slow grinding of “The Ritual” with its vicious main riff that brings about the best of the left hand path, or the hulking closer “The Eye Of Madness” which stands atop from an impressive nine minutes. As expected it is the doomiest and slowest song found on this album, a slow burner that occasionally gains momentum and escalates into infuriated segments of punishing brutality. That cool bass lead which can be heard during the initial section brings back memories of Carnage’s only album, but the song does much more than just walking on Swedish grounds. It travels through darkened forests and you can’t avert the agonizing screams from tearing away your sanity. A long path awaits you and a sense of inescapable terminus begins to approach as the lack of inertia suddenly strikes the song down into its sludgy pace that drags on until the end, hinting at the possibility of a slight return but only for once indulging in it. One last feeble attempt of escape, but as it slowly fades away so do you along with it.
It can be argued that Horrendous have no original ideas since they reap and sow all the teachings from pre-existing sonorities, although one can’t properly say that the way they’re mingled and arranged is by any means unoriginal. The new old school seems to be doing its work by rehashing past glories while injecting different conducting streams that make disparate scenes carpool. Does the band accomplish that without sounding overly zealous in the honouring of their influences? Yes, they do. The band manages to bring some of the most interesting elements of different scenes and piece them all together while still sounding cohesive and fresh. They’re not breaking any new ground but it’s hard to become impervious to the massive old school statement brought forth by this album. Or should I say, new old school? Either way it’s a very interesting album that’s bound to please fans of the old and new, as it has a bit of everything that’s good about death metal within it.