Death Metal - United States
“Surprises always come up during writing — spontaneous ideas pull you into new territory and enable the realization of novel possibilities that previously were inaccessible.”
Such are the words from Horrendous drummer Jamie Knox when discussing the creation of the band’s fifth full-length, the highly anticipated Ontological Mysterium. Knox’s quote also encapsulates Horrendous’s approach to extreme metal. Since 2009, the band has capably tapped into the inaccessible by providing a fresh, unconventional take on death metal that harnesses technical brilliance with elaborate, mind-melding melodies, frothy, spewing vocals and labyrinthine song structures. This combination has made each Horrendous long player a clinic in the gratifyingly unorthodox. The trend continues on Ontological Mysterium.
The follow-up to 2018’s Idol was recorded, mixed and mastered at Subterranean Watchtower Studios in Virginia, which doubles as the homestead of guitarist/vocalist Damian Herring. While the band (completed by guitarist/vocalist Matt Knox and bassist Alex Kulick) finished much of the songwriting for Ontological Mysterium in 2019, its recording was delayed by the 2020 global pandemic and various life events. Horrendous eventually finished recording in early 2022 and mastered the album before the start of 2023.
The album upholds Horrendous’s position as one of the underground’s best outside-of-the-box extreme metal bands. Having long abandoned concern whether people would appreciate their “uniqueness,” Horrendous has embraced its role as a band willing to veer far from death metal conventions, intentionally stretching and breaking norms. To wit, the band primarily views its music as filtered through a death metal lens. This may be Horrendous’s defining trait: By not accepting parameters, nothing is off-limits.
In comparison to the complex, off-kilter vibe of Idol, Ontological Mysterium emerges as a more direct, if not confident, album, at times, recalling Horrendous’s critically acclaimed 2015 opus, Anareta. The vocals of Matt Knox and Herring serve up an array of asphyxiating, phlegm-filled volleys that remain the ideal counterpoint to the band’s jarring, multifaceted material. Moreover, Horrendous remains unafraid to adorn their songs with lavish guitar melodies to offset frequently strenuous riffing. But the members of Horrendous have long cited their affinity for metal’s glory years. It ended up being one of the defining traits of their new album.
“Ontological Mysterium is partly our love letter to the bombastic spirit of heavy metal from the ’80s and early ’90s,” says Matt Knox.
“Yet, even as it looks back on this legacy, it also gazes ahead to the future — an aural head of Janus encompassing our love of the genre while also forging a new vision for its future,” continues Jamie Knox. “We set out to expand the technicality from Idol and to continue to challenge ourselves musically while leaning more heavily into the ‘anthemic’ heavy metal feeling that better permeated some of our pre-Idol material — that larger-than-life vibe that makes all the greats like Judas Priest great. We wanted to make this record more immediately fun. As always, we try to surprise ourselves with new ideas for structures and rhythms so that the material feels fresh. Our sphere of influences is ever expanding as we evolve as music listeners.”
Jamie Knox notes Horrendous’s penchant for spontaneous jams at the start of band practice as the catalyst for several Ontological Mysterium cuts, notably “Exeg(en)ensis,” one of their most unpredictable songs to date. “We just hit record on someone’s iPhone during the jam and realized that we had ‘composed’ something that felt like a song, but with a very specific, lively energy,” he says. “Something that still feels like Horrendous, but almost from a different vantage point. We crafted the song’s basic structure from the jam’s ideas, filled in a few gaps, and made an effort to inject some of that spontaneity during the recording process.”
The Ontological Mysterium title translates to the “mystery of being.” Horrendous has previously tackled a wide range of topics dealing with the human psyche and matters of the existential. According to Jamie Knox, Horrendous opted to deal with broad themes of growth and evolution — with a more positive bent.
“This wasn’t something preconceived,” he says. “I think it just reflects what was on our mind over these last hectic years. I wouldn’t say the lyrics were a direct reaction to Idol, but I think one could view them as stepping beyond that negativity and moving forward into a different and necessary future — one in which you step up as the protagonist. Perhaps these lyrics do serve as a sequel to some of the Idol material.”
The release of Ontological Mysterium will carry Horrendous into 2024 — the band’s 15th anniversary. The members of Horrendous have long walked the delicate tightrope between their passion for the band and their responsibilities back home. The period surrounding Idol prompted soul-searching amongst the band (Jamie Knox calls them “comparatively bleak times”), but it appears Horrendous is ready to hit the ground running to support their newest creation.
“At this point, we want to wave the Horrendous banner high in a way that we perhaps didn’t around Idol and continue on this path that we’ve forged,” says Jamie Knox. “We are very proud of Ontological Mysterium and what our band has become — it’s almost like we’ve figured out how to make this band work amidst the wildness of adult life. This entity feels worth celebrating and feeding to see where it might take us next.
“We didn’t give Idol its fair due on the road,” he closes. “We plan to play much more this time around and in new places like Europe. The first round of shows to support the album is in the works now, and more will follow with time. Also, Ontological Mysterium definitely will not be our last album. While it has become more difficult to meet, we have an abundance of new material and ideas and are eager to begin shaping what will ultimately become our sixth album. I’m sure we’ll start the process soon.”
- Damian Herring : Guitar, vocals
- Jamie Knox : Drums
- Matt Knox : Guitar, vocals
- Alex Kulick : Bass
|December 27th, 2023||Ralph's Rock Diner||Worcester||United States||Buy Ticket|
|December 28th, 2023||Underground Arts||Philadelphia||United States||Buy Ticket|
|December 29th, 2023||Saint Vitus Bar||Brooklyn||United States||Buy Ticket|
|January 13th, 2024||Bandito's||Richmond||United States|
|January 14th, 2024||Metro Gallery||Baltimore||United States||Buy Ticket|
When Horrendous started working on their fifth album, Philly’s filthiest and finest death metal band wanted to acknowledge the bombast of late ’80s and early ’90s heavy metal, while blazing a path forward into uncharted territory. They were awfully successful, too. With ‘Ontological Mysterium’, these guys made a classic of their own.
HORRENDOUS are so close to heavy metal divinity that they can practically taste its delicious, rotten nectar. After all, they did just grace the cover of Decibel.
HORRENDOUS have given us two early glimpses of ‘Ontological Mysterium’. The title track touches down with riffs that churn like an Apache helicopter. while second single “Cult of Shaad’oah” keeps climbing on the backs of duel leads, crashing cymbals and bloody battle cries.