You ever listen to something new and pretty quickly think, “Wow, that was nice of the band to make something specifically tailored to me!” Granted, bands make music for the unwashed masses to enjoy but still, every once in a while, something hits you that feels like it was your own personal taste profile that was in mind during production. I had that bit of narcissism pop into my head while listening to Horrors of Human Sacrifice, the debut LP from Netherlands death metallers Defy the Curse. Death metal vocals that sound like the abyss screaming back? Check. Crust punk stylings? Check. That thick ass HM-2 guitar tone? Check. Throw it all together and you’ve got a recipe for something that’s going to be taking up some MBs on my phone for quite some time.
The first thing that jumped out at me on Horrors of Human Sacrifice was the Swedish buzzsaw sound of the HM-2 guitar tone. I’m a huge Swedeath fan and that classic Entombed and Dismember sound is a personal favorite of mine. That being said, plenty of bands are utilizing that tone these days and doing it dirty. I think sometimes it sounds like bands use that style just to use it, but that’s not the case with Defy the Curse. The compositions here, particularly the downshifts, really work with Harold Gielen’s denser-than-concrete guitar. Gielen has crafted a ton of big, meaty riffs that really make a huge impact with that thick sound and it gives the songs real oomph. The main riffs on songs like “Swarms” and “The Tower of Suffering” just wouldn’t hit as deeply with a more clean and crisp tone.
Wouter Wagemans’ vocals mesh perfectly with the sludgy, filthy axe tone. Wagemans has a deep, booming yell that still retains a solid coating of rasp to go with the somehow well enunciated delivery. The style is a marriage of hardcore and death metal vocals that works well with what the band is doing here. Defy the Curse is, first and foremost, a death metal band but one that pretty seamlessly integrates elements of crust punk into their sound. That death-first but with a crust sprinkling formula is pretty perfectly encapsulated by what Wagemans is doing with his vocals and I can’t imagine too many other vocalists working quite this well with the material. I’m not sure if it’s a compliment or a curse but the man just seems destined to sing about the myriad of horrors that Defy the Curse’s debut covers.
Horrors of Human Sacrifice might only be a little more than a half-hour but the band wastes none of the runtime pissing about. “Leading in the Realm of Torment” and “Existence Consumed” set the tone for pummeling, frantic caveman riffing followed by downshifts that keep the tracks heavier than Hell. It’s a formula that works throughout the record and one that is really going to get the circle pits going when these guys hit the stage. “Endless Curse” starts with a sample from what sounds like a horror movie trailer and it serves as an apt intro to my favorite track on the record. The galloping riffing and thrashy style add a little variety and showcase different influences on the band. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a number that I’ve been going back to pretty frequently since first hearing it.
The album doesn’t let up at any point and closes just as strongly as it started. The screeching feedback that announces penultimate number “Panopticon” leads into a monolithic, crawling intro that quickly gains speed before slowing back down for an ending that blends right into the closer, “Dreameater.” Clocking in at a bit more than four minutes, “Dreameater” eats up the most time on the record but not without good reason. Defy the Curse uses their last cut to demonstrate their mastery of tempo changes, monstrous riffing, and setting an atmosphere. The song is, outside of part in the middle, is mostly a slower one that verges into doom territory at time. It’s a fitting ending that serves as a reminder that these guys aren’t ones to be pinned down to one style and that whatever they try, it’d be shocking if they failed.
If you aren’t into what Defy the Curse is doing, this relatively short album could probably feel pretty long for you. Sometimes you know if you’ll like a band with only a song or two and I’d say that’s the case here. If what these dudes are laying down isn’t grabbing you by the first few tracks, it’s probably not going to grow on you too terribly much. That being said, if the hodgepodge of elements that worked so well for me sounds appealing to you, get ready to sacrifice a lot of your listening time to the beast that is Horrors of Human Sacrifice.
Final verdict: 4/5
Photo at top: Horrors of Human Sacrifice album cover.
Get the album on Bandcamp here and follow the band on Facebook and Instagram.