Review: Horrendous’ Ontological Mysterium is a Death Metal Masterpiece


East Coast outfit Horrendous made a name for themselves with 2015’s Anareta, converting their straightforward death metal approach into a progressive one. 2018’s Idol moved the needle forward but it’s with fifth album Ontological Mysterium that Horrendous begin to realize their true potential.

Horrendous’ core sound can best be summed up as a summation of influences from post-Spiritual Healing Death, prog weirdos like King Crimson and Voivod, and Cynic. The quartet blends those sounds together in ways that feel effortless and interesting, from the breakneck heavy metal-esque opening to “Chrysopoeia (The Archaeology of Dawn)” to the energizing instrumentation on “Cult of Shaad’oah.” Guitarists/vocalists Damian Herring and Matt Knox show why they’re one of the best guitarist pairings in extreme metal today, trading off intricate sections and delivering varied vocal techniques throughout the nine songs that make up Ontological Mysterium.

Drummer Jamie Knox and bassist Alex Kulick deserve special mention as well. Ontological Mysterium is the first album that really captures just how much fun Horrendous are live and a large part of that comes from the bright and lively rhythm section. Produced by Herring, who is an accomplished engineer outside of the band, Ontological Mysterium is an easy listen that retains the raw death metal core and highlights the progressive features of the record.

Nothing on Ontological Mysterium doesn’t work. “Exeg(en)esis” uses an interesting vocaloid filter and the song feels less related than the others on the album, but it fits and features some enjoyable guitar playing. Such a feeling is a testament to how strong the songwriting is on the new record—”Exeg(en)esis” would be a crowning moment or album centerpiece for many lesser bands.

Whether it’s something in the Philadelphia water or just a combination of songwriting chops and excellent musical camaraderie, Horrendous have made one of the best death metal albums, not only this year but in recent memory. Ontological Mysterium was worth every bit of the five-year wait and is undoubtedly a modern death metal classic.

Horrendous’ Ontological Mysterium is out today and available wherever you get your music.

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