The Horrors – V

It’s been ten years since The Horrors’ debut and who would have thought they’d still be relevant and critically acclaimed? Over the course of their five albums they’ve gone on a progressive, thought-provoking journey and a decade later they’ve produced what might be their finest LP.

Strange House, now erased from set lists, brought us funny pseudonyms, goth-chic and chaotic garage rock, whilst Primary Colours saw a revamp into shoegaze territory for the band. Skying, meanwhile, was a terrific psych-rock record and preceded the dream pop-infused Luminous in what was a newly found epic exploration for the five-piece. V now shows the group at the peak of their ability as they exhibit a sense of sonic exploration and melody never seen before in what is a tantalising creative vision that has been fully realised.

Recorded in London with producer Paul Epworth, who has worked with the likes of FKA Twigs, Lorde, Rihanna, Adele, London Grammar, Florence and the Machine, Coldplay, U2 and Paul McCartney, the band took a risk by working with someone more suited to the mainstream, according to frontman Faris Badwan, “But life isn’t much fun without risk. It’s the antithesis of being creative if you know what you’re going to be doing every time.”

Keyboardist Tom Furse added, “It’s natural, if you do see yourself as an artist, to progress and not play it safe. Bowie pre-empted the modern condition of not being able to stay in one place for very long, and I get frustrated with bands who stay still. Because then it does become a career.” That quote embodies what The Horrors are all about and first track ‘Hologram’ paves the way for the other nine expansive tracks that follow.

The menacing opener builds into a pulsating framework of churning synths and pounding drums as well as a piercing guitar riff: “Are we hologram? /Are we vision?” cries Badwan in what are typically ambiguous lyrics from the singer. ‘Press Enter To Exit’ then sees a change of pace halfway through as the group dive into ‘60s psychedelia. First single ‘Machine’ is an industrial, bombastic tune featuring electronic drums and churning synthetics and is followed by the calmer ‘Ghost’, which wouldn’t be out of place on the end credits of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie.

The groove-laden ‘Point of No Reply’ then slowly builds into a fizzing, atmospheric finale and should transfer brilliantly into a live setting. The melancholic ‘Weighed Down’ and ‘Gathering’, meanwhile, see the band targeting stadiums before ‘World Below’s delicate pop melody signals one of the most emotional compositions the band have ever written. ‘It’s A Good Life’ then treads carefully back into their Skying days, in which their seemingly momentous ambitions are carefully met by Epworth without ever sounding too radio-friendly.

Album closer ‘Something To Remember Me By’ then channels dance, trance and ‘80s pop in a New Order-esque song that has the potential to rival the likes of ‘Sea Within A Sea’ and ‘Moving Further Away’ to the title of The Horrors’ greatest track. The crowd pleasing hook and cathartic ending climaxes what is a brilliant album from a band who have now become one of the UK’s most treasured.

Paul Hill