Death Metal Part II: The God Within

In the previous article, we looked at how metal protests the dreary existence of the modern day in “The Nihilist,” the first track of “Anareta” by Horrendous. The narrator rejects the mores of a corporate, institutionalized society and resolves to be a nihilist and find his own path.

Cartoon by Lo Wall

The following track, “Ozymandias,” resolves with resounding lyricism and an inspiring crescendo. The first stanza describes the author’s earthly, corporeal existence as one without a known purpose: “Spectral dawn dazzling… Desiccated dreams/ Wander on / Pilgrimage to nothing.” As the piece develops, he asks his nameless god for an answer to his most pressing question: “Is it better to wander than create/ When time will only lay waste/ The fruits of our labors?” The music builds with ascending tremolo picking as he addresses the god directly, “Master, questions I seek/ Master, reveal yourself to me.” The music slows down and begins to build again with an open ambience, affecting the musicality of a Gregorian chant with harmonizing guitar leads. Then, the music fades slowly as the final line rings out with a strained but ecstatic catharsis, “Beneath the twisted mask, the master was me.”

“Ozymandias” concludes with a declaration of personal autonomy and a rejection of institution and society. The author decides the only thing he values is authenticity. He is now only subservient to institution and social mores with his body while his spirit can be free to reject the unjust life he’s inherited.

“Siderea” is an awesome instrumental with perhaps a lighter tone, giving contrast to the heavy weight of “Polaris.” In this track, the author describes the inheritance that has been preempted from him and “every man torn from the womb,” a response to the opening of “The Nihilist.” Musically, the opening isn’t too remarkable; however, after a minute, the piece transitions to an interstellar ambience where echoing tremolo notes fly through space, and the cymbals scintillate with reverberation, suggestive of the star Polaris in the night sky. A descending chord progression bounds on resolutely as the vocalist hoarsely sings the lyrics with exasperation, “Polaris beckons/ Sidereal guide… Awaken dormant entity/ Tap the wellspring of memory/ Unlived aeons spiral into me.” Beyond the banality of modern existence on earth, the author looks to the star Polaris for what latent wonder exists in the universe. The spiral imagery is reminiscent of pantheism and the theory of the interconnectivity of the universe, where the spiral shape exists in the biggest and smallest scales of life from galaxies and conch shells to the structure of DNA. The tragedy of the author’s message relates to the beauty of the universe that is subverted by the limitations of a human existence where everything is transient, and it’s easy to get lost in quotidian inanity and an acquiescence to the base mores of a sick society.

“Acolytes” presents the biggest disruption in the album, with a jarring but wholly satisfying switch-up in the middle of the track. Dissonant vibrato slides kick off the song with a heavy doom metal vibe, and the singer invites fellow “acolytes” to join his ritual—the song. “With seductive cacophony we proselytize,” he says. The cacophony is the dissonance of Horrendous’s music, and the proselytizing equates to converting listeners to the cause. The track picks up speed and becomes like a thrasher song as the vocalist describes the desolate reality that he and his acolytes were born into. A few switch-ups later, and the guitars, hard-panned left and right, play a chaotic descending riff that sounds like it could be ripped out of an ’80s Megadeth track. Then out of nowhere, the drummer starts playing in half-time and the dark, murky dissonance of the thrasher metal resonates off into silence. From the ashes, a post-rock, melodic, august melody emerges in the instrumental outro, and you remember the last stanza of the track, “Destroy pantheons/ Crushing pillars of civility/ All powerful, mighty/ Primordial seed/ Forging a new reality/ Embrace the burning dawn in me.” Following this image of light and positivity is the only section of the entire album in the major key, the positivity inspiring a vision of a future existence devoid of institutions that impose on the latent, individual beauty that exists every one.

Stay tuned for the next article where I’ll look at two other albums, one religious and one of a different genre within metal entirely. A curated Spotify playlist including all of the tracks discussed, and some other recommendations in the genre will be linked.

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