Of the four bands on this year’s edition of the Decibel Tour, the one I’m definitely most looking forward to seeing is Horrendous. Their 2009 demo Sweet Blasphemies and debut full-length The Chills were both highly enjoyable slabs of HM-2 Swe-death that garnered them a dedicated underground following. As good as those two releases were, though, they proved to be just a warm-up for the stunning one-two punch of 2014’s Ecdysys and 2015’s Anareta, where they expanded their musical palate to wider acclaim, including 2015 Album of the Year honors from Decibel magazine. With the Indy stop of the Decibel Tour just around the corner, drummer Jamie Knox was good enough to answer a few questions for us via email ahead of the gig. Trust me - you’re going to want to get to The Vogue early enough to catch their set, which has the potential to be the best of the night.
Indy Metal Vault: So it seems like Horrendous went from a well-regarded underground band on The Chills to suddenly having a much higher profile with Ecdysis and Anareta. Were you surprised at all when publications like Decibel started championing the band and putting your albums at or near the top of their year-end lists, or did you know you were on to something special when you were writing your two most recent albums?
Jamie Knox: It was certainly surprising. We felt that we had created something special on all of our albums, but it is hard to predict how others will view your creation. People often interpret things differently than you intended - sometimes this works out well and sometimes it is disappointing. But we have been lucky in terms of reception so far and we’ll have to see how things go in the future. We will continue to make music the way we have been and are confident our next release will represent another step forward.
IMV: If I remember my Horrendous history correctly, you were never much of a live band until fairly recently. Last year’s tour with Tribulation was really your first extended run of dates, right? What made you decide to start playing live more? What was the biggest adjustment when moving from the studio to a live setting (aside from finding a live bass player)?
JK: Yes playing live was generally rare for us until this past Tribulation tour. While we always enjoy playing live, our busy schedules make it difficult to tour consistently and we honestly felt there wasn’t enough interest to justify us taking large chunks of time off work to plan a big tour in the past. Instead, we opted for mostly one-off performances to keep our live presence going. However, we have been lucky to get our name out to more and more people with time, and this has also come with additional touring opportunities (touring with Tribulation was a dream come true as they are a favorite band of ours). So we hope to continue to tour at a similar rate to this (we likely will never be a band that tours throughout the year and instead will continue to tour on and off when opportunity presents itself) and will continue to produce music that challenges and inspires us. As far as adjustments from studio to live setting, we haven’t had to make many in the past except we would tend to choose songs that translate well to a live setting without bass. Having bass has filled out our live sound and allowed us to cover more of our material.
IMV: A lot has been made of the classic Swedish death metal influence on the Horrendous sound, but I’m curious as to what your influences are beyond old-school death metal. Do you draw musical inspiration from any unexpected (or non-metal) artists?
JK: Beyond The Chills, I think our Swedish metal influence has been shrinking gradually and I wouldn’t call it a significant influence for us at this point (or even during the Anareta phase for that matter). Our musical tastes are extremely varied - Damian has always been an old school death metal guy, but Matt and I spend much more time listening to traditional metal (Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest, etc.) and thrash (Megadeth, Slayer, etc.). Matt and I grew up on punk/indie rock, so I think a lot of that seeps into our musical psyche, and more recently we have gotten into jazz, 70s prog rock, electronic (like Tangerine Dream), and more. We are also interested in folk, and Damian had a period where he immersed himself in bands like Bon Iver, for example (and he remains a fan). Alex, our new bass player, is heavily involved in the experimental/free jazz scene in Philly, so he brings some new perspectives as well. So in my eyes, Horrendous is now more of a conglomerate of diverse musical ideas that are more or less filtered through an extreme metal lens. But the other guys may have slightly different opinions.
IMV: One of my favorite things about the Horrendous sound is the interplay of the guitars, particularly the lead breaks. How do you go about recording a guitar solo - do you plan them out beforehand, or are they composed more spontaneously? Are the leads split between both guitarists, or does one of you handle the majority of them?
JK: Damian and Matt tend to do most of the solo writing after rhythm guitar recording is finished, so they tend to develop solos spontaneously but also shape them over time into their final form while in the studio. They may hear themes in their head and translate these into the beginnings of a solo, but a lot of it ultimately comes from spontaneity. Leads and solos are split between them fairly evenly.
IMV: I always like to ask about live rigs. I love your guitar tones - what does your pedalboards look like? Are your live and studio setups essentially the same?
JK: The live and studio setups generally are not the exact same - there’s a lot of experimentation in the studio to achieve the perfect tone for the album, but Damian generally uses the same 5150 amp in his studio when we’re recording the guitars as he does live. During shows we tend to rely on the heads for tone, and Matt is using a Marshall JCM 2000 now as of the Decibel Tour. Pedal usage is honestly pretty minimal live (compared to other bands) - things like delay pedals are used but not much else. We used to use the HM-2 pedals live, but it’s very noisy, and the riffs come out clearer without it, so we stopped at some point post-Ecdysis. Plus we didn’t use that pedal on Anareta, so it makes sense to not use it live at this time.
IMV: What’s next for Horrendous? Ecdysis and Anareta came out in pretty quick succession - can we expect album number four any time soon?
JK: After Decibel Tour is completed, we will begin putting together our material to shape LP4. We would like to release it perhaps by the end of 2017 but nothing is set in stone at this point. There are plenty of ideas floating around and the time has come to synthesize them into a final product.
Clayton T. Michaels (Senior Editor) is a mild-mannered college English teacher by day, and a craft beer drinking, black metal and grindcore loving misanthrope by night. He’s also an award-winning poet and rabid Red Sox fan. Send him your promos at [email protected] You can also find him posting pictures of black metal cassettes and beer can labels on Instagram as @ironhops.