Monday, October 24, 2011

The Horde - Thy Blackened Reign

The Horde
Thy Blackened Reign
StormSpell Records

Hailing from Iowa City (Iowa, U.S.), The Horde are a speed/thrash act that emerged onto the scene with a vengeance with the release of their debut E.P. ‘From Empire To Ashes’ in 2008 (Through Scenester Credentials Records). Now two years on, and after a revamp of line-up, The Horde (Comprising of vocalist/bassist Duncan, guitarists Derek Joseph Ahrens (5th Dawn/Ageless) and Tim Matthews and ex-Lividity/Cygnus Loop drummer James Whitehurst) are back with their debut full-length effort ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ on the retro metal specialist label StormSpell Records.
Picking up exactly where their E.P. last left things, ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ sees The Horde maintaining their mix of N.W.O.B.H.M. (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal), speed/thrash metal and primitive black/death metal (In the vein of Venom and Bathory) in the sound sense, while retaining a distinctly Viking/ Norse mythology/war theme on the lyrical front.
The description mentioned above does lend its weight to a fair amount of expectation, especially given the rise of speed/thrash metal over the last five years. And while ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ is far from an absolute classic, The Horde has managed to produce one mighty fine album indeed.
The opening riff of ‘Death Foretold’ gives you the impression that The Horde is primarily a thrash act first and foremost. But it isn’t until you’ve really given the remainder of the track a good listen that you fully understand the many levels of influences that make up the band’s sound. Traces of melodic death metal, old-school metal (Which is more than evident in the raw and unpolished production values, and the Iron Maiden like dual guitar work and gallop) and thrash (Especially within the shredding lead work) all have their places within the song, and all come together to give The Horde a sound that’s hard to pin down, yet so appealing.
The title track ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ reveals a bit of a thrash/punk vibe with its faster passages and rather simplistic choruses yelled out in primitive form, while the darker feel of ‘Hell Beast Of The Pale Frost’, the hammering ‘Supertusk’ and the slower paced/doom like ‘War God’ are monumental slabs of old-school metal.
Elsewhere, tracks such as ‘Vengeance For A King’ (Which is preceded by the short instrumental piece ‘A Kingdom Cries’) and the closer ‘With Death (Comes The Horde)’ (One of the rare exceptions where the band explore atmospherics, moods and tempos within a single track to create something of an epic) are some of the stronger highlights to be found on the album.
Pinning down any one particular sound or genre to a band’s album can sometimes be a real drawback, especially if the songs on the album seem to drift from one genre to the next. But in The Horde’s case, it works in their favour. Their collective influences work in a way that doesn’t make much sense, but sounds great nonetheless.
In terms of the production, ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ could have benefitted from a bit more time, and Duncan’s vocals could do with a little more help or back-up (The choruses do lack in some places). But despite these few problems, ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ is a great album for what it is, and should be sought out by any self-respecting old school thrash metal-head.

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© Justin Donnelly