Be alone. Hate life. Die miserable. Depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM) shrieks lyrics from an asphyxiated throat about these themes. Its atmosphere is bleak and nihilistic. These traits generally set DSBM apart from the larger black metal family tree. Lo-fi production, tremolo-picked guitar, and cold dissonant riffs are shared between the two. Darragh “Outis” O’Connor walked the left hand path with DSBM when he conceived Horrenda – a solo Irish experimental black metal project. Rooted in the Norwegian second wave, Outis maintained a no frills approach to his sound. This persisted throughout his first few releases. His songs were drenched in abrasive lo-fi walls of noise. It induced a sense of claustrophobia; it reeked of despair.
Now this madman seeks a more visceral sound. He wants something heavier so he can increase the intensity of his live performances. On his latest release, Neronian Times, Outis continues to carve his multi-instrumental talents. The traditional Norwegian and DSBM insignias remain, but he strikes an accessible nerve that throbs with death metal.
Neronian Times is total chaos. To some, the record will sound like a mess. In a sense it is, but it’s intentional. The title track opens with a shrill guitar riff; it’s so loud that it may scare you. Within seconds, a black metal cacophony erupts with tremolo riffing and blasts. Outis croaks undecipherable lyrics. It slows to a head banging crawl, then gallops into death metal double kicks. In a flicker, an acoustic passage burns as the Great Fire of Rome once did. The song careens back into madness. Other tracks on Neronian Times are not as sporadic as this, but they showcase Outis’s versatility. “Brathadόir” exhibits his filthy vocal range; one that contorts between guttural howls and a suffocating gurgle. He explores the occult soundscapes of hell with noise producer Harsh Discipline on “SHODAN”. In just six songs, Outis treads a surprising number of musical terrains and influences even if they are short-lived.
Neronian Times is ambitious in its experimentation. Some parts don’t flow well, however. These can best be described as awkward passages where the instruments sound out of sync. The piano outro on “Ríastrad” carries little weight behind its sound sample. The opening riff in “EYE” plays against the drums a bit too much and creates a confused rhythm. Fortunately these moments are brief and the songs make up for their aforementioned missteps. Horrenda is still in its infancy. It will take time to see how far Outis can push his black metal experimentation, but he’s shaping up to be a blasphemous musician. If the tortured passion found in Neronian Times is any indication, he has plenty more sins to commit.
Score: 8.0 / 10.0
Listen to “Thermidor” above; purchase Neronian Times here.