It seems like very couple of months or so an album will end up in my inbox that I can’t quite wrap my head around, even after repeated listens. The reasons for that vary: adventurous songwriting, dense arrangements, boundary-pushing experiments in genre, etc. Eventually, though, I can usually find some sort of thread in the music to grab on to and keep pulling at until the mysteries within begin to unravel.
In the case of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Horrified, though…man, I don’t know.
Daniel Alderson is clearly an incredibly talented musician with a knack for writing earworm riffs that run the gamut from slower Warning/My Dying Bride-style doom to melodic Swedeath to Kill ‘em All-era Metallica thrash, often times within a brief span of the same song. And therein, I think, likes the problem. On Allure of the Fallen, Horrified sound like a band going through an identity crisis. A lot of the individual parts on the record are really compelling, but in the end those parts don’t quite cohere as well as they could. As a result, I’m just not sure how I fee about this record. So why not figure it out together, shall we?
First, let’s tally up what is working on the good side of the ledger:
- The riffs. Sweet mother of fuck, this album is an embarrassment of riffy riches. Each of the six tracks on the album has at least two or three killer ones. For example, the intro riffs on album opener “Allure of the Fallen” kind of sound like what would happen if Gothic-period Paradise Lost and Dismember had a baby. Quite a few of the riffs on “The Perceiver” split the difference between Gothenburg melodeath and melodic black metal to surprisingly nice effect. The doomy, atmospheric instrumental “Shorn” is one giant, emotive riff after another. The clean guitar intro and transition coming out of the guitar solo halfway through “Unanswered” both give me chills every time I hear them.
- Sick solos abound. Pick a solo – any solo – and it will be sick. Guaranteed.
And on the other side of the ledger:
- The vocals. I will often lose myself in the long stretches on music on the record and start to think, “you know, maybe I’m being too hard on this album.” And then the vocals hit and they take me right out of it. They sound uncannily like Damian Herring from Horrendous (who, ironically, gives a comment in the PR materials): a high-pitched, gravelly shriek. And while that style of vocals works perfectly for Horrendous, they sound completely out of place on what is mostly a melodic doom record. I wish they’d balanced those harsh vocals out with some cleans or, better yet, gotten rid of the vocals entirely. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most consistently enjoyable track is the instrumental.
- Some of the transitions between riffs sound a bit abrupt – the shift from one style to the next is too jarring and it ends up coming off like the musical equivalent of a jump cut in a French New Wave film. Closer “The Promise of Solace” in particular has a bunch of such transitions.
- Occasionally there will be an almost jazzy clean bass part that appears high in the mix like something out of an Atheist song. Those moments are kind of strange, too. Once again, “The Promise of Solace” is the main offender, but it also pops up in “Shorn” and sounds out of place there as well.
So the question now is whether or not the riffs are strong enough to cancel out the things on the other side of the ledger. In some ways, the record reminds me of how I ended up feeling about Spirit Adrift’s Chained to Oblivion. Wall-to-wall riffs, firmly rooted in melodic doom, some truly breathtaking guitar work, yet for some reason that record never fully clicked for me. The highs on Allure of the Fallen seem higher than those on Chained to Oblivion, though, so I’m going to keep trying with it. Maybe another handful of listens and the vocals won’t seem so incongruous?
Allure of the Fallen will be available on September 29 via Shadow Kingdom Records.