Review: HORRENDA – “Vile Lament”… Posted: 28/04/2018 by Philip Morrissey
Ireland has always had a curious relationship with black metal. The attraction to the genre is quite obvious. Our country’s history is entrenched in a history of dark myths and a deep obsession with death and the occult. It could be argued that the struggles with occupation sparked a fire to set out a cultural identity. On the other hand, is the whole Catholic mindset prevalent throughout the ages. The attempt to wrestle clear of the stranglehold has defined our society over the past couple of decades. The impact of the first and second wave of black metal may be a less obvious attempt to forge a more singular opinion, but it certainly left an impression on many who experienced it. Early tours from the likes of Cradle of Filth, Sigh, and others also inspired those who would attempt to create something of their own.
But the amount of bands playing straight up black metal remained small. Some like Cruchan, Primordial, Waylander and Geasa went into Celtic/pagan metal. Others combined it with a death or doom styling such as Carnun, Kingdom and more. Outfits staying true on the path were of a select nature. They would arrive in a wave and then depart almost as quickly. Recently, it seems to have encountered something of a revival again. Irish black metal may have been the whipping boy but has now garnered a growing international reputation. The good work of Altar of Plagues certainly helped but acts like Slidhr, Sodb, Scáth Na Deithe, Rebirth of Nefast have built on that. One of the acts developed in the meantime is Horrenda from Dublin. The project was initially a solo gig for Darragh ‘Outis’ O’ Connor of Saint Slaughter and Axial Symmetry. A number of tracks were recorded with him playing all instruments. A number of session guys came in to allow shows to be performed and they assisted in the recording of more demos and splits such as ‘Eachtra’, ‘Bellum Civile’ and ‘Neronian Times’. A more settled line-up came together towards the end of 2016 and they played together for Bloodstock Metal to the Masses, Siege of Limerick, supporting Christ Agony, Rotten Sound and Abaddon Incarnate.
And it was this collection who recorded the demo in question. ‘Miolra’ features Daithí Ó Mathúna from Aponym and Argonath. It is entirely instrumental and mainly driven by the synth with a slight tapping on the percussion. Essentially done for atmospheric reasons. Could be that it is signalling the dread yet to arrive. Keyboards and synths work in conjunction with one another. The drums become more audible as it develops. Choral effects become evident in the background as audio pieces make themselves known. ’16 Deadmen’ is one of the tracks previously recorded on ‘Neronian Times’ and the bootleg ‘Redrum Sessions’. It opens with the sound of gunfire and the call for execution. It leads straight into in a full black metal assault. The drums by Daniel ‘Cruxx’ Heafy blast away and the guitars from Outis have that buzz-saw quality and played through a dense atmosphere. Vocals are of a low throaty bellow. Drums lock with the guitars in a brief moment between the vocals from Aaron ‘Nomad’ O’ Shaughnessy. It slows down just enough for a breather before delving in again. Audio is played of the reading of the Irish proclamation before that fateful Easter in 1916. The song name alone is obvious to these events etched in Irish history.
‘By Royal Decree’ continues in much of the same vein. With the rumbling drums, strong guitar lines and deep, muscular vocals. The bass from Keith ‘Donn’ Smith locks together well with the drums as it proceeds. The singing does not remain throughout. Instead, it employs vocalisations as the mood demands. The pace gets faster about half-way through leading to a great guitar solo. It falls back down to just the vocals and drums before stepping back up again. The playing gets increasingly loose towards the end. ‘Sluagh’ commences with a foreboding sounding synth. More good work from Ó Mathúna. An audio piece is incorporated from a video by Thomas Sheridan regarding the banshee and what she meant. The vocals begin to occur beneath this. They lead into the arrival of the guitars and drums. They are initially on the restrained side but quickly charge into a sonic assault. It is able to change the mood and tempo where required though. A real feel of Attila Csihar in the vocalisations. Outis assists Nomad in this regard. The drums begin to absolutely pummel as it reaches its climax. All are on great form though. The audio piece crops up again heightening the sense of dread and apprehension. This track was featured in a best of British black metal compilation. A bit of geographic dislocation there!
‘A Dangerous Meeting’ is a cover of the Mercyful Fate song. It is more doom laden and slower than the original incarnation though. The vocals are more of croaky disposition rather than King Diamond’s high-pitched wail. Also absent are the distinctive duel solos courtesy of Shermann and Denner. Instead of the solos, it is mainly driven by the drums. The sound of church bells is evident at the end. I believe this was used for a Mercyful fate tribute album called ‘In the Name of Satan’. The demo is finished off with a cover of Mayhem’s ‘Pure Fucking Armageddon’. Warning sirens are played at the start accompanied by an audio clip. It’s a short and relatively faithful rendition of the ‘Deathcrush’ track. It probably increases their feel of second wave Norwegian black metal.
The inclusion of both tracks is not particularly necessary in my opinion. Both are well performed renditions of numbers people might be more familiar with. Their profile could have risen as a result of this and are undoubtedly popular on the live front. Having two of them and an instrumental does limit the amount of original material from themselves. Quite a few tracks were recorded by Outis on the first two demos which could have been included. Even those already done could have been re-recorded by this particular line-up. Those songs that are included provide a fascinating insight into a very promising band though. It might currently sound like pretty functional black metal. It has to be realised that this is at the demo stage and is likely to be a lot more powerful going ahead for a debut album.
And it is with this in mind, that we move on with. The artwork, has already been posted on their social media pages. This came from Neil O’ Sullivan Greene. Currently entitled ‘Díoltas’ (Revenge), no other details are available at the moment. Whether they use material already included on other demos, or entirely new material, remains to be seen. Their blend of Ireland’s historical and mythical past, along with themes of depression and bleakness has certainly served them well so far. Credit to Outis for getting through whatever demons he was facing. Around all of that, they had a busy schedule on the live front by the end of 2018. They appeared at volume two of Atomic Live Metal Club at Fibbers, Black Metal Friday in Waterford and making their English debut as support to The Infernal Sea. They also headlined a show at Thomas House. A live album was digitally released towards the end of year. The beginning of the year saw them take part in Metal to the Masses and announced for Siege of Limerick. Other than the latter date, the main focus is to get back into studio ahead of a proposed full length release. Joining them on this journey is Mark ‘Marrdok’ O’ Brien as a second guitarist. Their hard work and determination will see them good hopefully.