The Chills is the debut album from American death metal act, Horrendous. While the band’s name might be Horrendous, thankfully, its music is not. Unfortunately there is something else The Chills is not: original. Horrendous is another band looking to Stockholm circa 1990 for inspiration. I am a huge fan of Swedish death metal, but at this point even I have to admit this shit is getting a little out of hand. Then again, it is tough to bitch about good death metal, and The Chills is, if nothing else, definitely that.
I am going to take for granted that anyone reading this has a fair grasp of what old-school Swedish death metal sounds like: Entombed, Dismember, etc. Let us focus instead on how Horrendous differentiates itself from the other Stockholm sound disciples. Firstly, Horrendous has a strong melodic streak, not so much that the music strays into melo-death territory, but enough to give the music a somber, atmospheric feel that is vaguely Finnish-sounding to these ears. Secondly, Horrendous’s songwriting — inasmuch as music played within the confines of a well-established, well-worn style can be — is diverse. From thrashing and blasting to borderline doom, The Chills rarely gets stuck in a rut. Thirdly, for what it’s worth, one of Horrendous’s two singer/guitarists does a pretty fair impersonation of Martin Van Drunen.
The Chills is more than solid throughout, highlighted by some excellent, melodic lead playing and above average riffage, but the album’s centerpiece is undoubtedly “The Eye of Madness”. “The Eye” is a nine-minute, multifaceted tour de force that flows cinematically from ominous to brutal, and from tortured to beautiful. While the rest of the album is good, this track hints at potential greatness.
Horrendous is obviously not trying to innovate, but as throwback death metal albums go, The Chills is one of the more interesting ones I have heard. Despite its hackneyed aesthetic, Horrendous has made an album with character, and that is no humble achievement.