With an EP back in 2008 that made people take a keen interest in them, Illinois based band The Horde return with their debut album Thy Blackened Kingdom, a release containing epics tales of Viking legends, battles, and demons, all delivered in a constant barrage of thrash, speed metal with more than a splash of punk.
Having formed in 2006 and really only well known in their surrounding home area, their debut EP From Empire to Ashes took them to the attention amongst others of Stormspell Records, the result the signing with and the recording of Thy Blackened Kingdom and its triumphant recent release. Consisting of ten tracks of chest beating and sword swinging ferocity the album hits hard, fast, and with all disregard for the welfare of its listeners.
The album has a definite old school feeling across its battlefield partly achieved by, as commented by guitarist Tim Matthews “Recording in analogue helped get that old school feeling without losing any of the sonic power that is held in high regard in today’s extreme metal scene.” The aim was certainly successful but the release does not feel dated nor not earn its place in the modern folk/Viking/metal swarm of bands laying waste before them. As one listens there are numerous influences and references that spring to mind from early Venom and Celtic Frost to Turisas and the punk attack of the likes of Kvelertak. There are moments where bands like Motorhead, Maiden and Tyr raise their horns and at one point within ‘Hell Beast Of The Pale Frost’ a Metallica type itch also broke out.
From the moment ‘Death Foretold’ raises its muscled riffs and power, the album’s force and intent is set. A strong mix of old and new sounds the song is a satisfyingly enthused attack which barely breaks a sweat or crosses into new territories, though when it brings in a solo that is as discordant as it is fresh the track lifts to new heights. An increase in intensity and joy comes when ‘Thy Blackened Reign’ takes over. Direct and simple in sound and lyrical content, as well as in delivery it is a battle cry to inspire fear in those before it. The track’s forcefulness and simplicity works well with its punk aggression as guitars, bass and drums rampage in the ear.
The track also confirms the biggest flaw on the album that the opener suggested. The drums are throughout the release very poor, not in skill as technically James is intent on doing as much skilful harm as the music needs and gives scope for. It is their sound that is so disappointing, tinny and weakly metallic one can almost hear his mother asking for her pots and pans back for supper. Though not a perfect album this is the biggest problem with it and quite sad as it detracts from the drummer’s obvious ability. Thankfully it does not ruin the album to a majorly damaging degree as the best track and most others show.
‘Odin’s Blood’ is immense, a rampant anthemic declaration with resourceful guitars, a tribal bassline, group chants, and all the addictive juices you could want in a song to stir up the senses. The obvious leader amongst the tracks though two other tracks do closely rival, firstly ‘War God’ with a bass thump that was spawned in hell and a chugging riff that stomps like a thousand Viking boots over the senses, slower paced than ‘Odin’s Blood’ it has equal intensity and overwhelming power, but focused in a more singular and epic attack. The other ‘Vengeance for a King’, is a violent revengeful primal onslaught with incessant inciting riffs that devour the ears eagerly and a pulsating guitar groove that balances neatly with the emotive sonic solos strikes.
Thy Blackened Kingdom is worth your attention for these three alone but the consistency of the rest of the release makes it a very satisfying proposition. Though slightly meagre on outright originality it certainly brings more energy and pulse pumping eagerness to satiate a full blood lust need. The Horde is ready to go to war and with Thy Blackened Kingdom they have a sturdy and appealing weapon.