It’s not always the safest or the smartest route, but sometimes I explore new music based solely off the cover art. You might miss some great albums with lame art, and you’ll stumble upon records with great art, but less than great music. When I first put my eyes on Horrendous’ Ecdysis I prayed that the music matched the art, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. The following two albums have been just as striking in terms of the visuals and the music.
Late last year Horrendous released their latest full-length and first for Season of Mist, Idol. Improving on their old school death metal sound while venturing further down the prog-hole has been a staple in the Horrendous library. A tough road that was originally plowed by Death in the late eighties through the nineties, but Horrendous has managed to traverse it deftly. I spoke with Jamie, the drummer for Horrendous about their artwork, Idol’s reception, and their future. Enjoy!
How has introducing a full-time bassist helped with the writing process?
Having Alex has been wonderful – he has similar musical interests, but also comes from the Philadelphia experimental music scene, so he brings new musical perspectives that mesh very well with our own. He also is very interested in making the bass parts stand on their own as a separate instrument instead of just following guitar like most bassists do. And lastly, all four of us get along very well and are friends beyond the band, which is always helpful.
If the internet’s “Year-End Lists” are anything to go by, this is your most successful record to date. How have things changed for your band since the release of Idol
I don’t want to put too much weight on year end lists, but it has been gratifying to get a lot of positive feedback for the album – in one sense, we make music that we want to make without regard for outside opinions, but at the same time, having people support what you do is reassuring and inspires you to keep going in the face of difficulty, etc. The main thing that has changed for the band since Idol’s release is our reach – I think a number of people that didn’t know or care about us in the past have started to pay attention (people outside of the “old school death” realm, for example), and we are beginning to get new opportunities. At the same time, things have picked up for the band after each new album, so it feels more like a natural progression. We are certainly more active now in terms of playing live, and we hope to keep that up.
You guys handle your own production in house. Is this a monetary decision or an attempt to keep outside influences from working their way in?
Damian handles all recording and production, and we have always done it that way. The reason isn’t monetary, although it is nice to save money. Really, we just like to have complete control over our music, from the writing stage all the way through the final product. Under our method, nobody else has any influence over it – the final product is exactly as we want it to be. The ability to record ourselves also allows us more time to experiment in the studio, in terms of adding flourishes, new guitar leads, strange background vocals, etc. – we could never do a lot of this stuff that adds character to the songs if we had to pay for studio time. We’ll continue to do things this way as long as we remain a band.
I feel that your discography mirrors Death’s discography. Not in terms of the sound, but the natural progression of your death metal music. How much has Death influenced Horrendous?
We’ve been told similar things before, and we do appreciate hearing that. I’d like to agree – I don’t think we sound “like” Death in any direct sense (although they are surely an influence to a degree), but I do think we have a similar musical philosophy in terms of always pushing our sound forward. We love to challenge ourselves and try new ideas that we generate as we expand our musical horizons over time. We’ll continue to do so as we create new music, and I’d like to think most of our fans appreciate our adventurous spirit and look forward to seeing how we develop in the future. In my mind, all of our records still sound like Horrendous, even as our style has continually reached into new musical places.
What was the first song you wrote that made you guys sit back and appreciate what you’re doing?
I’m not sure if there was a specific song that I can think of. Once we finished and recorded the songs that would make up our Sweet Blasphemies demo, I think the three of us recognized that this band really could be something beyond a fun outlet for jamming. We’ve been lucky to have a consistent level of interest from people with each album release, which is great. But back then, we certainly didn’t envision the band becoming what it has. We were beyond excited to have a small independent label interested in releasing our demo – if you told us back then that we’d be where we are now, I don’t know if we would have believed it.
What’s your favorite song off of Idol?
That’s really tough, but I think the combo of …Prescience into Soothsayer is still my favorite. I love how the eerie intro feeds into the song, and I think Soothsayer has a lot of wild stuff going on without feeling like it. I love all the rhythmic changes, guitar and bass interplay, dueling vocals, etc. I think the song is a good representation of the style that is encompassed on Idol.
Your album artwork is always stunning. Do you work with the artist on a certain theme, or just give them the music and let them work?
We’ve had Brian Smith do our last three album covers – we really love his work, and we’re fortunate to be the only band he has worked with. I’m not sure that he listens to or cares about metal in any way – we generally have given him a few subtle ideas each time but let him produce what he feels will fit. And strangely enough, his works have fit very well with our music and lyrical content, even though he doesn’t really take them into account. He must be on a similar wavelength as us. For Idol, he didn’t have time to make a new painting for us, so he gave us the choice between several that he felt would work. We felt that the current cover of the album was a great fit.
You’ve been able to headline small runs of tours with bands such as Tomb Mold and Of Feather & Bone who are also burgeoning stars in the death metal scene. Any talks of making the band a full-time gig?
The tour with Tomb Mold was a lot of fun and they are great guys. We’ll be playing a short run of shows with OFAB coming up in April. We’ve talked about spending more time on Horrendous, and we’ve certainly been doing so since the creation of Idol began. It would be a lot of fun to truly focus on the band as a full-time gig, but we’ll have to see what happens. Doing so requires taking some chances and making some sacrifices. Time will tell.
What bands that you’ve yet to tour with are you dying to go out with?
That’s a tough question, as all four of us probably have different answers. As far as established bands that are still playing, I’d love to play with Voivod or Opeth. We’ve played a few shows with Crypt Sermon, but it would be a lot of fun to do a long tour with them. I think it would be fun to tour with Blood Incantation/Spectral Voice – we love both those guys and their music. I like shows with diverse lineups, so I’d even love to play with bands as different as Converge, for example.
From an outsider’s Perspective the Philly metal/hardcore scene is pretty rabid. What’s your take on the scene in Philadelphia? From bands to fans.
Philly has lots of cool bands, especially as of the last few years. It’s probably not worth me listing them since there are so many, but I think it has become a bit of a hotbed recently. Still, attendance at shows here is pretty hit or miss. We’ve played huge shows here, and we’ve also played some where barely anyone shows up. That’s fine, but when you think about the number of people here into metal/hardcore/etc, it can be a bit of a bummer. I’ll also say that I’ve always felt the “scene” here is too fractured into cliques, but that’s a story for a different day.
Any bands or records that you feel are underrated or underrepresented?
It is tough to give examples since there are tons of bands that I would apply this to. In general, I think bands that are trying new things tend to get less attention in the metal community than they should. It seems like many of the hottest bands now are honestly just rehashing what has been done before. And that’s fine, some of these bands are cool and pretty damn good, but I think it’s very hard to replicate something and make the new version great. The band Emptiness comes to mind as the opposite of this – their last several albums have been super cool and innovative, but they are drowned out by flavor of the month acts. Emptiness should be way more popular than they are, at least in my mind.
If you were to describe your sound to my Mother, how would you go about it?
Assuming she doesn’t know much of anything about metal, I’d probably just say we’re a metal band with a lot of guitar solos, haha. From my experience, most people without any interest in heavier music don’t care to hear much beyond that. I also don’t usually tell people unfamiliar with this world that we are a death metal band because I think that conjures images of brutal tech death-type music. I usually just say it’s a metal band in that scenario.
Finally, what’s on the horizon for Horrendous? Anything you can give us?
More touring for sure (hopefully in some new places), and we’re starting to begin writing for LP5. Stay tuned…
Click here to visit Horrendous on Bandcamp & Purchase Idol
I’m pretty great. Just ask me, I’ll tell ya.