Since its inception, Horrendous has been one of the most exciting bands dealing with death metal subgenre, constantly twisting it and giving its own stamp on tried and true style. Their fourth full length entitled Idol, which is already poised to be one of the best albums this year, was good enough reason to get in touch with them.
Greetings Horrendous and welcome to the pages of Metal Sound! How are you guys doing these days?
Things are going pretty well, we just finished our string of album release shows in the Northeastern US and things are starting to quiet down a little bit following the craziness of Idol’s release. We’ll have a bit of down time now until we get some more shows planned, which will be nice.
The main reason for this conversation is, of course, your fourth full length entitled Idol so now that everything is said and done how are you satisfied with its final outcome, is there anything you would change about it?
We are very satisfied with how Idol turned out, and I don’t think there are any significant changes we would make to it. We take so long to craft our records and also record them ourselves, so the final product ends up being very much in line with our vision. The response has been great, which is gratifying, and it has been fun preparing the songs for live shows.
The break between Anareta and Idol was three years which is the biggest one Horrendous’ history so can you please tell us how long did the preparation of Idol last? What was the main musical inspiration for its final sound?
The process for creating Idol was the longest of any album so far. Writing began around early 2016 and we started the recording process in March of 2017 right before embarking on the 2017 Decibel Tour with Kreator, Obituary, and Midnight. Due to work commitments, we had to record the album solely over weekends, and we met usually 2-3 weekends per month for about a 10 month period until the recording process was completed sometime in early 2018. Mixing and mastering was completed by Damian at his Subterranean Watchtower Studios by the end of April 2018. The recording process was grueling – it put a lot of strain on the band and the individual members themselves, and the album became something of an idol itself during this period. Musically, it reflects our continued push to improve our writing and playing abilities, and our desire to try new things with each album. We experimented a lot with rhythms that aren’t typically found in metal and took influence from the ethos of things like progressive rock and fusion more so than in the past.
I went through the lyrics for Idol and even though they are somewhat abstract in the same time they seemed concerned about the state of the world today, am I right?
Yes, these days we tend to write about what we consider to be important or compelling topics, but we filter these topics through a more abstract/metaphorical lens and employ imagery that is typical of metal lyrics. For this album, the contemporary socio-political state of the Western world was weighing on us heavily, and we all went through a number of personal tribulations during the writing and recording of this album (including the strenuous process of recording the album itself). The theme of external forces applying negative influence on the individual became an overriding theme of the lyrics, as these forces often work as idols.
Also I would go that far and separate the album in two parts, just like the sides of the vinyl. The first part seemed angrier to me, telling about the absolute terrors of the idols. Were these lyrics perhaps inspired by the state of politics in USA, most notably the election of Trump?
Yes, the turmoil in the US following Trump’s election was a massive influence on all of us, and I think influences that significant find a way into the art one is creating at the time. I suppose this “angrier” stuff is more concentrated on the first side of the album, as you say. But we didn’t intend to separate themes by album sides, and I think the theme of idols runs throughout the different lyrical topics across the album.
The second part sounds to me like you are telling the sad story of heroes who fell from grace were left with themselves in the end, most notably in track Obulus but also Devotion (Blood for ink). Is my notion right?
We like when people form their own interpretations of our lyrics, and the fact that the topics are buried in imagery certainly creates an ambiguity that allows people to do just that. So I think your interpretation makes sense, but I’ll say that Devotion deals specifically with the drive and desire to create art, contemplating where it comes from and describing the feeling when the artist begins to feel swallowed by the piece being created. Obolus is generally about being crushed by the weight of the life that we are expected to lead in contemporary society, and about wanting more for ourselves. But in both instances, they are about being overwhelmed and don’t necessarily have a happy ending.
The thing that I would say about Idol (and also your whole career in general) is, even though you are tagged as death metal, your music is not primarily aggressive but rather bizarrely dreamlike – sort of like atmosphere described in tale The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. What would you say about this sentiment?
I actually like that you say that – in my mind, we are less aggressive than the vast majority of our peers, and I think we instead place emphasis on creating atmosphere and focus on songwriting. I like extreme metal, but I’m not impressed by sheer aggression. Aggression has its place, but I’m more affected by beautiful riffs and atmosphere, so that is the kind of music we like to make. We of course use aggression, but in a much more calculated, sporadic way than the average death metal band. I have not read The Dream, but I imagine there are some parallels between that and our work based on what you say.
Four albums and four different releases, how do you manage to do that and is that the most important feature for Horrendous? For how long would you say that you will be able to do that?
If you are referring to how our albums all have very different sounds, I’d say it stems from our development as musicians and songwriters over time. Our abilities improve, and as music listeners we are always getting ourselves into new genres, and I think musical ideas from different areas seep into our psyche and influence how we write. We will continue to challenge ourselves with each new album, so I’d say that we will consistently release new albums that have a characteristic or different sound compared to our previous work. It is very important to us that we push our own boundaries and abilities, making the most interesting music we can at any given time.
The biggest jump in style has happened between your first two albums, can you please tell me what has caused this radical change in sound?
The Chills was our first attempt at creating a complete metal record, so I think we were learning how to develop a cohesive set of songs at the time. By Ecdysis, I think we were more comfortable with exploring new ideas and letting them develop naturally. The Chills became our foundation, and we decided that we wanted to let ourselves try new things after that, which we have continued to do ever since.
It should be said that in between Anareta and Idol Horrendous has become four piece with adding the bass player Alex Kulick into its ranks. Did this help the bend to become more active in the live front, and also creatively?
Having Alex has certainly improved our live sets, and I think it has given us the opportunity to play live more often. Our newer records are increasingly complex, and it becomes very difficult to play without bass. Alex also has a background in the free jazz and experimental music scene, so he brings that experience and viewpoint to the writing process. And I think his influence on our sound is pretty clear on Idol.
You are also on a new label Season of Mist which will without a doubt help to spread Horrendous’ good name even further. How are you satisfied with your cooperation so far?
Jamie: So far, things have been great with Season. And their influence in Europe is one of the reasons we were interested in working together in the first place. They also have a more diverse audience compared to labels like Dark Descent, so hopefully individuals that don’t normally gravitate toward underground death metal acts might now get a chance to hear our music.
It is very strange that Horrendous still haven’t crossed the pond. When can we expect to see you guys in Europe, at least on some summer festivals like my fave Brutal assault?
Our first European show will be at Graveland fest in the Netherlands in May 2019, and it is possible that we add some additional shows after that – time will tell. The reality is that we haven’t been invited to play most of those summer festivals in Europe – we would love to, so hopefully that will change soon.
In less than 10 years you guys have achieved a lot, what do you predict that lies in the future for Horrendous?
Jamie: It is hard to say exactly, but definitely more albums and hopefully tours in places like Europe, Asia, or South America. We have only performed in the US so far. The band is in a good (albeit busy) place right now, and we are interested to see what the future has in store for us.
That would be all for this conversation, I would like to thank you for your time and wish you all the best! Your last message to fans over here…
Thanks for the questions and hopefully we can make it over to Serbia at some point.
- Questions my Slobodan Trifunovic
- Answers by Jamie Knox