Good things come to those who wait, so they say. It’s not always true, of course, but given the 7 year wait since the last album from Terzij de Horde, the absolutely incredible Self, it’s hard not to reflect on it now that their new album is almost here. In One of These, I Am Your Enemy is, in some ways, what might be expected from the Dutch black metal band. It is an intelligent, cathartic, and passionate listen, filled with a righteous rage and an insistence not to surrender quietly to despair. There’s a rawness to its emotions that betrays the influence of screamo on the band, something that was always present but is utilised here in surprising ways, upping the emotional intensity beyond what Terzij de Horde had achieved before. As with, say, Bosse de Nage, if Level Plane Records had released black metal records, they would probably have sounded something like this. All of which is to say, In One of These… is as adventurous and devastating musically as it is emotionally and intellectually stimulating, which serves as a prime example of the raw, life-affirming power of black metal.
The album opens with the shortest track, ‘Cheiron’. A four minute whirlwind, it is the sound of creation and destruction in one, as the barriers that imprison the mind are torn down and new possibilities are given form. A jarring riff and indecipherable, throat-shredding vocals underpinned by blasting drums propels the song along in a manner that fans of bands such as Wiegedood would appreciate, with a mid-song shift into a slower tempo providing a pause from breath before the song rampages to its finish. The scantest of intros and endings bookend the track, making it a full-blooded way to open an album, giving it a real immediacy. It serves as a statement of intent – this will not be easy or comfortable to listen to.
That impression is emphasised by the title track which follows. At just over eleven and a half minutes long, it might look to be a significant departure from the title track from a quick glance at the song length, but listening to it demonstrates otherwise. That same soul-searing power is present, a sense of taking no prisoners and trusting in the listener to find their bearings in this maelstrom. The song shifts and twists almost constantly, giving it a constant sense of momentum. Blasts of utter fury segue into sections of (relative) serenity, with the sparing use of clean-guitar melodies providing a wonderful contrast to the rage that surrounds them, elevating both through the power of their differences. Yet what’s most remarkable about the song is how short it feels. Its considerable duration flies by, with none of the bloat or self-indulgence that a track this long would normally suffer from. Given the way that Terzij de Horde contrast undeniably beautiful, powerful melodies with the raw muscularity of black metal, a Wolves in the Throne Room comparison might be valid – but only if those Wolves never once relented in their assault, somehow creating something graceful and life-affirming even as they tear out your throat.
Closer ‘Precipice’ opens in slower fashion, led by ominous bass and sparse guitar and drums and topped with throat-shredding vocals. When the song kicks into full gear just over the two minute mark, it comes as a declaration of war – but not in the usual sense for black metal. Terzij de Horde aren’t waging a tired campaign against the usual targets for black metal (problematic or otherwise) – instead, what they’re aiming for is something deeper, more uncomfortable, and it’s on ‘Precipice’ that feels like it comes to the fore. The song’s textures and movements feel violent, yes, but there’s something in them that is searching and yearning, a sense of looking upwards towards the stars. The album is based upon a series of questions – who decides who lives and dies? who decides what is life? all perceived through an antifascist mindset – and in the mid-song extended instrumental section of ‘Precipice’ the listener is given space for reflection. That’s not to say this represents an easing off musically, but instead it’s a shift, with less of the overt aggression that came earlier and into something more ominous instead. When the tempo picks up once more and the guitars once more reach for the stars, the effect is thrillingly hair-raising – which makes its sudden shift into more jarring textures all the more effective, and underpins the fact that there are no easy answers to the questions raised by In One of These… As with the title track, its considerable duration – almost 14 minutes! – flies by, and by the time the album ends with the song collapsing in on itself, it will simultaneously feel like an hour has passed, and that the album only just started. Such is the strange effect that the best albums can have on time.
That Terzij de Horde achieve so much in less than a half hour is testament to how strong In One of These… is. It simultaneously feels like a natural next step following on from Self, and also an unexpected departure in its sheer bloody-mindedness. It is the most focused, devastating (musically and emotionally) record the band have recorded to date, with not a single note feeling superfluous or carelessly placed. The lyrics may not be clear throughout the album, but they don’t need to be – their emotional intent is impossible to mistake. It all adds up to make In One of These… a contender for the best black metal album of the year thus far, and is sure to enhance Terzij de Horde’s standing within the underground scene. If you want your black metal to challenge you, and leave you feeling stronger (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually) by the time it’s done, then get on this. This is something special.
In One of These, I Am Your Enemy is out on April 8th via Consouling Sounds and Tartarus Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain