originally written by Chris McDonald
The last year has surely been an interesting one for Pete Sandoval, to put it mildly. Sitting idly back while Morbid Angel sent shockwaves through the metal community with a different drummer must have been an interesting (and envious) position for the man instrumental in making the band what they are today. But as Terrorizer‘s third full-length record reminds us, not everything Pete the Feet touches is gold, and sometimes horrible genre-bending experiments aren’t needed to make for a disappointing album.
Darker Days Ahead got a ton of backlash following its release in 2006. While not exactly undeserved, I always found the passionate hate directed towards it by some to be surprising. It was by no means a horrible, unlistenable mess — merely a tame and boring album that utterly failed to live up to the legendary reputation of its distant predecessor, World Downfall. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hordes of Zombies (really, guys?) falls into exactly the same category as Darker Days Ahead. It’s not a terrible shit-pile, and in some cases it can be mildly enjoyable. But for the majority of its running time, this album is repetitive, stock, and mostly unnecessary.
This is the first Terrorizer album not to feature Jesse Pintado on guitar following his untimely death in 2006, but you’d be hard-pressed to know this by listening to Hordes of Zombies. The riffing style is almost identical to that of Darker Days Ahead, if a bit more lively than that release. Most of these riffs are actually surprisingly solid; I particularly enjoyed the occasional dip into Middle Eastern melodic themes, and the occasional foray into sparser dissonant territory is perhaps the only thing remotely adventurous about this album. The riffs here are by no means a huge strength, but they’re rarely a negative either. It’s pretty good stuff all around.
What really cripples Hordes of Zombies is the construction of the songs in general. The compositions are incredibly formulaic and uninteresting, and patterns become predicatable as early as the fourth or fifth song. Songs typically begin with either a thrash or blast beat, repeat for a few measures, than switch to whichever beat wasn’t used in the intro. Considering Pete Sandoval’s drumming abilities, the lack of variety in his playing is inexcusable, and while his performance is as tight as it always is, it fails to lift the songs to any higher plateau. The track lengths feel bloated and excessive, with simplistic riffs repeated for too long and with next to no twists or turns. And the vocals are as mindless and cringe-inducing as they were on Darker Days Ahead. Anthony Rezhawk’s hollow, tired growls are completely pedestrian and fail to command any attention whatsoever in the songs. It literally sounds like he walked into the studio on little sleep and belted out his vocals while reading from a cue card.
This sense of artistic sterility pervades the whole album, actually. Hordes of Zombies is supposedly a grind album, but it fails to conjure any sensation of real intensity, action, or urgency. The band sounds bored and uninspired in what they’re doing — there’s almost no passion or spark here, just the sounds of four musicians churning out a record for the sake of churning out a record. Hordes of Zombies is by no means a failure in terms of execution; the production is high quality, and many of the riffs would sound great in the context of other songs. But this music is utterly mechanical in the worst way, and falls completely flat in its attempts to be anything more than a collection of riffs and drum parts — if it’s actually striving to be more in the first place. An average album in every sense, Hordes of Zombies does about as much to live up to Terrorizer‘s name as it does to deserve your time and money — which is to say, not much at all.