** 2014, the Year of the Horse. 2014, the Year of Horrendous. While Horrendous' previous full-length, The Chills, sent death metallers back to the grave (whatever that means), new album Ecdysis made the stateside trio a household name (admittedly small number) and a contender for top spots on Year End lists. Trust us, the word on the street (and in Decibel) is real. Like death. Ecdysis is death metal reborn! The definition of Horrendous is “extremely unpleasant, horrifying, or terrible”. Would you call the music of Horrendous “extremely unpleasant, horrifying, or terrible”? Horrendous: Hmm...generally, no, at least I sure hope our music is not terrible. However, there are certainly times when we aim to evoke a horrifying atmosphere with our music. We just thought it would be a cool band name, and “Morbid Angel” was taken, so we went with the next best thing.
How would you describe making music at this stage in the band’s lifespan? Easy, hard, rewarding, annoyingly necessary? Horrendous: I would say it is a very rewarding experience. Though it is a long and arduous process, I think the three of us are at a place where we all feel that we are indispensable to the writing process and that our creative input is valued. With this type of relationship, the three of us are able to musically synch-up and avoid the ego boundaries that can sometimes plague group songwriting. With these boundaries erased, we are free to experiment musically and express our creative energies through what we are writing. These moments are the best aspect of songwriting for me---getting lost in our work and letting the music take us places we didn’t know existed.
How would you compare Ecdysis to The Chills? Horrendous: Overall, I'd say Ecdysis is more varied, diverse, and complex. It embraces a more vast array of influences than its predecessor, but I feel you would probably need to look at the album as a whole, not just individually by song, to really notice that. It's more complex; we packed in more riffs, made the bass even crazier, and the drums are undeniably more intricate. There's probably even more leads, as well. We really obsessed over every note, every drum hit, etc. during the recording process. Overall though, I think we retained our signature sound. This is not a different band or anything like that.
Do you worry about how people will perceive your “maturity” on Ecdysis? Horrendous: I like that you put ‘maturity’ in quotations here. To me, Ecdysis is more mature than The Chills in terms of songwriting, structure, complexity and creativity---not because of any perceived shift in style that the band experienced. I think a good deal of people mistakenly equate maturity with adding melody or creating more palatable, textured (read, ‘sophisticated’) music when this is not always true. I view our maturity solely through the lens of how much we have grown and developed our sound as a band, not by abandoning a particular style or subsuming another. In this sense, I think we still have room for a good deal of evolution in the future. Having said that, I do wonder how Ecdysis will be received. I know some fans will be disappointed that we didn’t create The Chills part 2, but I also think that a lot of people were ready for something else after so many years of revivalist bands. Ecdysis may be a ‘grower’ for some people, and I think it may take them a little time to get over the initial shock of not having their expectations met before they can digest the album.
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but everything from ’89 – ’94 is classic lately. Even if it was terrible in ’89 – ’94, it’s considered gold. Like the Cancer records or the lone Sororicide record. Terrible records, by and large, yet considered cult classics. Horrendous: This is an interesting point that I never really thought about; probably because I didn't experience the original death metal movement until at least a decade after it occurred. There's definitely an element of rarity, and people wanting what they can't have or easily find. Whether or not that ties in with the modern digital age/culture where people can basically have access to whatever they want whenever they want or not is up for debate. There's sort of something mysterious and compelling about discovering a movement after it happened, and slowly discovering just how many bands were part of the style. Like, what other bands am I yet to discover, and yet all of this occurred 20 or more years ago? It’s like a little time capsule. Combine all these facts, and there's an intangible element of mystery and allure surrounding the whole thing.
There’s a lot of adventurous stuff on Ecdysis. Was there a turning point musically where you felt, “This feels and sounds good. Let’s roll with it!”? Horrendous: I think the musical turning point had more to do with our personal evolution as musicians and music listeners than anything else---we never set out to write songs that were meant to adhere to a particular sound or style, and other influences slowly creeped into our work. Another dimension of our songwriting is related to our abilities as songwriters during any given time frame. We are always pushing ourselves and a good deal of our progression comes from being able to play either more technical or compositionally complex/informed music. Increased skill and creativity leads to increased experimentation, and that leads to more adventurous songs. What I mean here is that The Chills, for example, is not less adventurous (compared to Ecdysis) due to a decision to keep the album purely old school; the realm of adventure/progression we tapped into on Ecdysis simply wasn’t in our collective musical consciousness at that time of The Chills.
Where do you think Horrendous will go from here musically? I know you guys have different influences. Horrendous: Believe it or not, the three of us already started writing new material for the next album. I can’t say for certain where we will be going musically, but if that writing session is any indication, we will probably be taking what we did on Ecdysis a step further for the next album---not necessarily in terms of progressing (I promise LP3 won’t be an avant-garde jazz record or anything) but clarifying our sound and making everything sharper, bigger and better.
Where’d the cover come from? Reminds me of a more literal Zdzislaw Beksinski piece. Horrendous: The cover is a result of us working with Brian Smith. I discovered Brian pretty much by fluke one day while researching art and artists. So we can thank the ever-changing Google search algorithms for altering the course of history in this regard. But yeah, I took a look at his work and just loved his style, so we contacted him and asked if he would like to make us an album cover. We gave him some general ideas of what we wanted, and brainstormed together, and then he let it rip.
The title, Ecdysis, isn’t exactly easy to pronounce. Americans in particular will have trouble with this one. What the hell does it mean and how does it relate to Horrendous’ music? Horrendous: [Laughs] It's really not that hard, but yes I'm sure 50 percent of people will pronounce it incorrectly, and 90 percent of people will have to look it up. Ecdysis is a word that refers to transformation and growth, or the shedding of layers/skin/form. It’s a metaphor that relates to the album by way of the lyrical content, as well as the album art. It could also be applied to our music in the sense that the concept of Ecdysis concerns a natural process of progression and maturation. Not that we “shed” any aspects of our pre-Ecdysis sound, but that we are growing into our own sound.
Lyrically, where are you taking Horrendous? By the song titles and the cover, it’s not all fun and games, right? Horrendous: Definitely not fun and games. [Laughs] Honestly, it saddens me to see a lot of bands making a mockery of the metal genre, or acting as some type of metal parody. I don’t really get that---in some ways when I see these bands it makes me think that they missed the point when they listened to the genre, though maybe I am just taking it too seriously. I know time and cultural evolution can make things from the past seem cheesy, but I doubt that metal bands playing during the ‘classic’ period were in any way joking about it. That being said, our lyrics reflect this philosophy on metal. For the most part, we try our best to say something worthwhile in our songs and use the music to explore topics that we find meaningful. That is not to say that we don’t have homages to tried and true metal topics (songs on The Chills like "The Ritual" and "Monarch" from the new record, for example), but we never let these songs fall into parody. As far as the lyrics on Ecdysis are concerned, most of the songs focus on both identifying and transcending aspects of society that we see as detrimental to the human experience. Some songs are more literal in their indictments of particular institutions or trends of behavior, while others are meant (both musically and lyrically) to conjure the experience of living in a world that is frequently hostile, chaotic and illogical. In this sense, I think the music on the record compliments the lyrical themes---the music explores the psychological turmoil of living in the world that I described, and is in many ways a tangible expression of the resulting existential crisis. Some corners of the album certainly have pockets of hope for transcending these issues, but the lyrics, music and album art show that the process of change will be a painful one.
OK, Horrendous think differently. You had a yellow shirt with your logo on it. Really, do you not understand? Horrendous: Yeah, I guess we like to be a bit different. What's the point of only retreading old paths? It's fine to be into a particular style/niche, but it's also cool to branch out a bit. We were pretty keen on having the second press of our demo tape be on pink cassettes, for example. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. Anyway, yellow shirts aren't completely unheard of, but they're pretty rare, and we thought it would be a cool, limited edition type of shirt. They're pretty popular though, so maybe we'll keep them around longer than we had initially intended. Metal can often be a sort of conservative scene, but sometimes novelty pays off.
What do you make of the reaction to the songs premiered so far? People seem excited. Horrendous: Yeah, so far the vast majority of people seem pretty impressed and are pumped to hear the album. That's a great thing. Of course, some people don’t like the songs, and that’s OK. It would be great to please everyone, but that is impossible regardless of what songs we write. We can’t wait for everyone to hear the album in its entirety---we are so proud of the result. It does seem like a lot of people understand the songs so far and appreciate their complexity, which we are also very happy about.
** Horrendous' new album, Ecdysis, is out now on Dark Descent Records. It's available HERE in vinyl and CD formats. There's no reason for any metalhead to miss out on Ecdysis. It's stunningly good.