Sickening Horror

I love this band.  One of the few current death metal acts that actually tries to assemble riffs and varying moods, death metal as a whole needs this band.  Many have felt that their When Landscapes Bled Backwards record was their crowning achievement, and as fine an album as that was, I’m more prone to reaching for the more adventurous sounds and arrangements of the follow-up, The Dead End Experiment. 

It’s been six (!) years since then, and as you can imagine with a band that has gone to some aural extremes, creatively they would eventually be bound to be at a crossroads.  Maturation as songwriters sometimes results in a streamlined sound that sacrifices the organic immediacy of previous works, and although there is something to be said for restraint, chances are if you’re reaching for a technical death metal album, that’s the last thing that you want to hear.  But for those who are excited by dynamics without neutering the metalness of a record into an Opeth-elian oblivion, Overflow should not disappoint.

What makes this album work, is somehow Sickening Horror have managed to take the notion of a bloated, robotic genre and made it sound like they are playing that style for you in your living room in between beers.  One of the first things you’ll notice is that the drums sound like a real drum set, which is a far cry from what they resembled on The Dead End Experiment, although a change is probably expected when you record three consecutive albums with different drummersThe guitars although abrasive in note choice are warm and strangely inviting, and even though the vocals are your standard death metal grunts Overflow feels like a very intimate affair.  The bonkers arrangements and light speed elements of previous albums are pretty much gone, and what you have left is kind of an easy-listening version of Demilich which on paper sounds way shittier than what it actually is.  The forays into electronic music still show up here and there, although the most effective keys are in the bone-dry piano of “The Day the Worms Became Kings” which bring to mind what Scrambled Defuncts could be if they chilled the fuck out from time to time.

Some unexpected melody drifts up in “Fractal Maze” which could have been yanked from a Novembre album and the percussive elements of “I, Explorer in Akashic Fields” and the killer drum performance on “May the Ground Not Receive Thee” provide enough rhythmic diversity to guarantee the songs won’t be forgettable.  Limiting themselves to very few choice themes per song is a welcome change to the technical death metal formula which makes sure composition over flash is the goal of the record, and extremes of sound and ability are no longer the focus.  Good for them, as in that department, they no longer have anything to prove.

What makes this effective as opposed to say what The End did on Elementary is that the menace of the band’s sound is still there- they just have stripped away the stiff, mechanical elements that obscured a humanistic way of identifying with the music.  Going from their previous records to this one is like watching the Saw movies and then seeing The Birds for the first time.  The grisly nature of torture is something guaranteed to make you squeamish, but psychological horror stays with you, and presents you with nightmares that linger in the backdrop of your brightest moments and memories, and as we age we’ll back away from the fleeting shock of immediate chaos ruining what we hold dear and realize the eventual, inevitable decay of all we love is what composes true fear.

Overflow invites us to mirror that concept over 43 minutes and ultimately witness the expanse of it five-hundred thousandfold, and its intimacy in its execution is what makes it all the more villainous.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jerry Hauppa
April 28th, 2015


  1. Commented by: Aaron

    Nice review, I agree with the comments about the “intimate” feeling the album has, and the whole thing feels very smooth and effortless to me, which I find gives it a “relaxed” mood which I think is fairly unique in the tech/progressive death metal genre.

    I’ve only seen a review for this on one other site, which is a shame. Really good album that will definitely be on my year-end list, but it seems it won’t get much attention.

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