Horned Almighty is yet another band from the Shakespeare-pun-tempting land of Denmark. Chances are pretty good that if you’ve heard a Horned Almighty album before, you know exactly what to expect, which is a teeth-gnashing black/punk steamroller somewhat on the order of Impaled Nazarene or latter-day Carpathian Forest. I mean, to be totally honest, pretty much the only ‘review’ most of you would need before making your mind up is, “Oh, look, there’s a new Horned Almighty album out.” The announcement of the product and the product itself are essentially coterminous, which is really nothing more than a pretentious way of saying that Necro Spirituals is good for what it is, but what it is ain’t no revolution.
As previously intimated, Necro Spirituals is a bruising exercise of efficiently dangerous black metal that’s been shot through with the tattered ghost of punk rock, though we’re definitely talking more Darkthrone than Kvelertak. The drums constantly jump tracks between classic punk, grind, and black metal rhythms, while the bass guitar hits like pulled teeth, lending a gritty thickness to the black metal song structures. The title track opens the album as a bowel-loosening juggernaut that whips through a number of tight tempo and rhythm changes with the fluidity of, well, loosened bowels. It’s probably the best song on the album, which makes the decision to place it as the opening track more than a little unwise. Perhaps in a bid for memorability (or to make up for the lack of memorable riffs), nearly every song features some section where the vocalist heaves out the song’s title. Telegram to Denmark: This alone does not an effective chorus make.
“Sworn Divine Vengeance” struts in with a classic 6/8 hi-hat rhythm of surging, surgical black metal, though things do drag a bit from time to time, mostly when the drums retreat into a somewhat lazy bass-snare twostep (see “Fountain of a Thousand Plagues”). “The Age of Scorn,” on the other hand, is exactly the type of speedy adrenaline rush that the band should turn to slightly more often, as too many songs linger in midpaced grooves that lack the skill to content the listener with a casual stroll through the filthy metal park. “The Blasphemous Burden” is a nice attempt to shake things up with a seriously vocal-stuffed dirge, but the crawling tempo never quite digs its claws in deep enough to be truly satisfying. Closer “Absolved in the Sight of God” opens with essentially the same goal, but its impact is even further diminished by the listener’s, y’know, memory and shit.
Horned Almighty essentially has one trick, and it’s a fun one. At thirty-six minutes, the album never really overstays its welcome, but it also doesn’t have a whole lot of replay value. I’d definitely recommend it as an effective tool for the occasional bout of venting, or heavy drinking, or windmilling around the grocery store, but it doesn’t quite have the variety in songwriting or depth of sound needed to really build a permanent rotten nest in your brain. But that’s cool. Every now and then, who among us doesn’t feel the need to smash some broccoli in the produce section while howling “NECRO SPIRITUALS!!!”?
(Oh, and I’m still a little pissed at these dudes for having [presumably] lifted their album title from Code’s “Smother the Crones,” but I can be forgiving.)