Horned Almighty

To Fathom The Master's Grand Design

Written by: RUB on 17/01/2020 11:28:28

Onto the first review of 2020… and why not make it one focusing on a Danish band? For those that don’t know them, Horned Almighty are quite the seasoned bunch as far as the Danish metal scene goes. Not only does their line-up include former members of groups such as Exmortem, Koldborn and Woebegone Obscured, but the band has also existed for nearly 20 years now, and as for their studio releases, they seem only to be getting better and better. The maturity of Horned Almighty’s sound has evolved into a very gritty, black‘n’roll-ish, and menacing style of black metal, and with the easily recognizable harsh growls and shrieks of frontman Simon ’S.’ Petersen, I imagined that this latest album “To Fathom the Master’s Grand Design” would yield a similar formula as the one used on the group’s earlier records. This is, of course, a good thing in my book, as few other Danish bands excel in this sort of nightmarish sound — so only one question remained to be answered: how would this new album fare against the other brilliant outings by Horned Almighty (such as “Necro Spirituals”) now that more than five years have passed since their latest release, 2014’s “World of Tombs”?

There is no doubt that Horned Almighty still have their influences sorted in a fairly simple and recognizable manner. One can still pinpoint that ‘90s-era Norwegian black metal sound in the mix — albeit with a much crisper production than preferred by most representatives of that scene — but over the years, the band has perfected it in such a way that they manage to stand out as one of better outfits in the Danish scene with a sound very much their own. As heard on the first track “Violent Cosmology”, which starts out with an eerie riff and drums played at a blistering pace, especially the guitar wielded by Bjørn ‘Hellpig’ Bihlet has that distinct ‘90s black metal sound. It serves as an excellent beginning to any album, and when the rhythm is slowed down just before the chorus as Petersen yells “FIRE!” to initiate a new round of blastbeats, the band immediately ensures that the track remains a varied and interesting listening experience throughout.

The pace quickly picks up on the following “Apocalyptic Wrath”, showcasing that specific black’n’roll touch that any fan of Horned Almighty should already be familiar with. It utilizes a well-placed and somewhat quieter breakdown, which adds to the build-up when the track eventually erupts into a headbang-friendly, mid-tempo groove just shy of the 02:30 mark. This is, in fact, the general feeling one gets from the album: that they’re doing what they do best. I wouldn’t color myself surprised by this, given how Horned Almighty have sounded for quite some time now. What they have done instead is perfected and evolved their sound to make it sound more evil, with especially the riffing having that special nasty tone to it. Take, for example, the various riffs presented by Bihlet in “Antagonism Eternal”: there is nothing too special about the track itself, but when his guitar truly picks up around the 01:40 mark and blazes for the next 50 seconds or so, my head can simply not stop banging, thus rendering a decent track into a much better one. My feeling is bolstered by the marching rhythm by drummer Jacques ‘Harm’ Brandt and the cadence of Bihlet’s guitar picking, and the song leaves me wanting more as soon as it has ended.

The same goes for the album highlight “Swallowed by the Earth”. After a rather straightforward intro segment, it shows its true colors after 30 seconds, with the same sort of blistering guitar-work that distinguishes Horned Almighty as not only a black‘n’roll band, but also a more straight-up black and even death metal-inspired band at times, as they mix all of these genres together in their music. Almost every song follows the same recipe, with a quieter section positioned in the middle to cater for a grand build-up toward the end, where virtually every track explodes in a vortex of riffing and blastbeats. The album-closer, which is an epic, slow-burning track, reminds me a lot of Petersen’s former outfit Exmortem, and it is an excellent way to finish off the album, one that is sure to have everyone attending their upcoming shows banging their heads without rest. To be honest, it is hard to pick any bad tracks here, as it comes down to which riff you like the most — and trust me when I say: there are several pretty good candidates included on the album. I’m thus quite certain that fans of Horned Almighty will not be left disappointed, and hopefully in the process, “To Fathom the Master’s Grand Design” might even earn the band some new fans as well.

8

Download: Swallowed by the Earth, Violent Cosmology, Witchcraft Demonology, Apocalyptic Wrath
For the fans of: Aura Noir, Celtic Frost, Darkthrone, Deströyer 666, Venom
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.01.2020
Scarlet Records

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