Cult of the Horns are a French one man band from Bordeaux with one full length released to this day. The band’s aesthetic is that of the typical NWN “goat-something” band but beyond the corpse paint and cheesy titles lies an honest combination of Death and Black metal which unique band member Mephisto makes an honest attempting at fusing both genres and though this record fails at times, there are a lot of interesting particularities, making this an above average listen.
The music seeks to integrate elements of Black metal into the Death metal riff maze. Typical melodies from the Norwegian scene are juxtaposed with the more primitive riffs from Morbid Angel mixed with the intensity of early Deicide. It does become very obvious at times as the black metal melodies are mainly used to reach a weak climax when all other ideas have been used up. This works partially as the melodies are longer and subtle changes every few repetitions or so until all the momentum runs out does give a sense of finality to each piece that is expected. The Death metal melodies consist of short chromatic sequences pushed forward through sheer intensity whether it is at lightning fast speeds or through percussive power chord rhythms. The Death metal melodies tend to develop from chromaticism to including other dissonant intervals that resolve uneasily but convey pure degradation through decay by settling on such broken melodies.
On “Eradication” a glimpse of genius is shown as a strummed melody transforms itself seamlessly into a percussive iteration that emphasizes the chromatic nature of the melody. “Mass Destruction Supremacy” has one of the most original ideas from this millennium as two melodies, one completely percussive and ascending chromatically leads to a fast melody that then resolves into a set of arpeggios. Leading from chromatic unease into majestic minor scale arpeggios, Cult of Horns show new ways to combine tired tropes into a new form of expression that shows the duality in the horror of pure destruction while also showing that beauty in portraying which on surface seems so ugly. “World Conspiracy” shows the greatest issues of this album. loads of good individual segments that often fuse together and the easy transition from Black to Death and vice versa but after a while, these songs become boring due to a lack of finality in each of them. The riff maze is never closed properly even if there is a sense of progress. On the aforementioned song, all the elements are there to form a cohesive arrangement but it does in such an uninspired way that we are left with a collage of individual pieces that fit together but don’t express much.
The tempo changes aren’t mastered well as this rather than riding the wave until it crashes, releases all the accumulated tension nowhere and forces the song to start from the beginning in creating potency. Mephisto avoids creating two separate songs within a song by reintroducing previous motifs after these almost random breaks. When the compositions reach almost Grindcore like intensity and then transition to beautiful Black metal do these compositions find their meaning but as previously mentioned, the songs either barely climax or break for no reason. The numerous samples on this record distract the listener as a barely audible voice is talking over the music and both seem to share a lot of the same frequencies as the listener can barely concentrate on one or the other. They add nothing to the music and contain pseudo-political speech.
If the band can focus on combining Death and Black metal at the level of the riff rather than within the composition while utilizing simpler arrangements of less motifs to maintain momentum and to build tension, then they may be able to renew the old Black/Death cliche. Chapter I – Domination is one of the better later metal releases but is hindered by the same mistakes as more modern bands in that there is not awareness of the composition as a whole versus the riffs. Cult of Horns have excellent ideas that need to be taken much further while removing all that is superfluous. If you need newer sounding Black/Death for some reason or want to educate your War metal friend, this album is a great start for such an occasion.