The Horrors have always taken an experimental approach to their brand of gothic rock. On Against The Blade, they’ve tested the industrial extremes.
Over their career, The Horrors have not been afraid to cover a broad swathe of territory. Their sound hasn’t taken a distinct trajectory — instead, this English quintet seems to thrive on experimentalism and diving deep into a style of their own choosing for any given project.
In an overarching way, they tend toward a gothic tonal colour but have incorporated elements of post-punk, glam, and even straight-up indie rock into their sound. On Against The Blade, they’ve followed their instincts into a brutal world of industrial anarchy.
Picking up the mantle from Lout (another three-track EP released earlier this year) Against The Blade harnesses raw electronic power. Just like the way Trent Reznor sought to dismiss the conceit of acoustic space in the creation of the NIN magnum opus, The Downward Spiral, the sensation of Against The Blade is one of electricity being plugged straight into your veins.
The intense riffage of the title track harkens back to the hi-gain fizz of the post-grunge period. The vocals from frontman Faris Badwan are similarly loaded up with distortion to the point of collapse. Yet, despite its treatment, it’s hard to interpret the atmosphere as dystopian. Instead, there’s a euphoric sense of catharsis that permeates the whole EP.
Twisted Skin picks up on the theme with its chainsaw guitar and synth motif — an all-encompassing engine that pumps relentlessly throughout the track. Then there’s the sense of abandon implied in the chorus refrain, “I live from day to day”: there’s no time like the present to throw off the shackles.
Against The Blade closes out on I Took A Deep Breath and I Kept My Mouth Shut — a blistering techno epic that was produced in collaboration with Cardopusher and Manni Dee. Perfectly in keeping with the theme over the overall body of work, it represents yet another experimental turn from the band; its unrelenting kick, abrasive synths and eponymous mantra is the robotic manifestation of their extreme industrial desires.
Though it’s brief, Against The Blade is a significant addition to the band’s oeuvre. Faris Badwan says that “There’s something about our recent writing that has felt really free and liberated, like being let off a leash.” So while the tones of Against The Blade evoke a hellscape, there’s freedom at its core.
Against The Blade is out now via Virgin Music. Listen to it below: