It would be exceedingly difficult, if not downright impossible, to question the bona fides of Amorphia‘s Vasuchandran as a true Metalhead. He and his Speed Metal troops tore it up across Japan last year in the midst of the global pandemic, only to return home to four months of lockdown that prevented them from seeing each other or practicing. But rather than slowing down, the group’s singer and guitarist used the time to pursue a project on his own. Like Amorphia, Hell Hordes takes its inspiration from the past greats. This time, however, his love of groups like Deicide, Benediction, and Morbid Angel are added to the mix, putting some Death in his Thrash.
For a brief five tracks, Hell Hordes‘ EP is cinematic in scope and ambition, prefaced with ‘Hymn of the Cursed’ – an acoustic track with plenty of ambiance, orchestration, and sampled bells. Any longer and it may have been a curious anomaly considering what lies ahead. But at a fade over one minute and placed at the start of the EP, it’s different in every way but mood.
Hell Hordes‘ eponymous track is every bit a statement of intent as it should be. Exploding out the gates and charging forward with a guttural grunt, indeed like a rampaging horde from the depths. It rages just as much as Vasuchandran’s work with Amorphia, but with the heft and chug of the more extreme and virulent strains of old school Death Metal. the drums are discombobulating enough that they threaten to spin the entire track out of control, but with explosive accents and mind-meltingly tight performance, it’s all held together seamlessly without letting up on the intensity.
‘Servants of the Serpent‘ is a Lovecraftian tribute to the occult and dark arts that primarily shifts from galloping thrash to full-on blast beats. It’s moments like these that recall the early heyday of Earache Records finding crucial extreme acts from across the globe and taking Death Metal from a global network of underground tape trading to a passionate cult fanbase.
First single ‘Reckoning of Chaos and Beyond‘ had already gone a long way to establish Hell Hordes as an intriguing prospect for DM heads upon its release last summer, particularly for those whose hearts lie in the transitional point in the late ’80s when Metal sought to push new extremes. There’s the rawness and warmth of classic records borne from the hallowed grounds of Morrisound Studios like Cancer‘s ‘Death Shall Rise’ or ‘Arise’ by Sepultura. However, it’s arguable whether even ‘Harmony Corruption’ was as blown out as this EP across the board. While it has one foot the past, listeners of contemporary extreme metal could easily get swept up in Hell Hordes raging and relentless brutality.
Closer ‘Death Cult’ features some ferocious double pedal blasts before it slows to a lurching groove which swirls around Vasuchandran’s distinctive growl. It’s possibly the EP’s most “Slayeresque” moment, with discordant fret runs and all. The tune is suitably evil as a homage to ritual communications with the dead and dark spirits.
Vasuchandran’s explorations of Death Thrash with Hell Hordes may exist because of the specific and unprecedented circumstances brought about by a global pandemic, but it would be a damn shame if this is a one-and-done project created simply from having some downtime. The absolute balls-out craziness of the work elevates it above the level of nostalgia act. Hell Hordes‘ EP would be an easy favorite for both fans of today’s most extreme metal that places importance on musical expertise and rhythmic complexity, along with the genre’s old school enthusiasts who may long for something new that rips this hard without the homogenized ‘modern’ production that may turn them off to most newer groups.