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Horseback - Half Blood

Half Blood
by Phillip Lawless at 29 May 2012, 1:39 AM

Few things are as exciting in the Metal world as experimentation. Sure, there’s a plethora of bands that are content to choose a subgenre and stick with it until the end of time. While it can be a pleasure to watch some bands tweak and shift within a paradigm, other times it’s boring and tiring as a group rehashes the same concepts and sounds over and over, release after release.

To me, the most enjoyable bands are the ones that gather up all of Metal’s prewritten rules and throw them out the window. Based on my initial impressions of “Half Blood”, HORSEBACK is one of those bands. This is sorely evident when I try to sum up the band’s basic sound in a half sentence. Are they blackened Stoner Blues Metal? How about noisy Psychedelic Electro Southern Doom? Ah screw it, I give up.

Opener “Mithras” is a layered but cohesive track built on a sturdy bass line and a simple, picked string riff. The drumming is loose but solid. Layers of keyboards and piano are stacked up, and harsh but clear vocals top the track. After two and a half minutes, a guitar lead solo takes over. There’s another short section with vocals; then the final minute of the track is all subdued keyboard and fuzz.

“Ahriman” stays within the blackened Southern groove framework, but the track adds in even more blues. There’s no research needed for me, these songs were definitely formed below the Mason-Dixon Line. The riff has some Southern swagger, and the keyboards add a dash of dirty, down-home ambiance. Think LYNYRD SKYNYRD with FENRIZ on vocals, with some definite dashes of CLUTCH added in.

“Inheritance (The Changeling)” is where the album takes a left turn. More soundscape than song, the only carryover from the first two tracks here are the thick layers of keyboards and the general sense of dis-ease. This seven-minute song features a growing, noisy build up that lasts more than four minutes. Finally, the noises shrink and allow a clean piano and light percussion ending. As the noisiness fades, distorted spoken vocals are added. This is the type of interlude track that will either pull a listener into an album fully or make someone reach for the ‘skip’ button.

Next, “Arjuna” brings the album back to Blues Metal. The simple guitar lines and the cloud of keyboards swirl over the emphatic drumming. The familiar blackened growls stay for about three and a half minutes; then there are some clean vocals. After, the song fades to gentle noise and keyboard loops.

The final three tracks on the album are labeled “Hallucigenia I, II and III”. They bring the experimental sounds of HORSEBACK to the forefront. The trio of tracks lasts over 20 minutes, and they appear to eschew any sort of traditional songwriting. The first song is almost four minutes of noise with some spoken, blackened lyrics. The next song starts with a minute and a half of throbbing, electro noise. Then, the drums and keyboards come in for a spell. The ending section is a mass of breathing guitars, rhythmic sleigh bells, growing and cresting waves of sound, piano notes and squeaking noises. The final track is 12 minutes long, and it is mostly a lush guitar hum and a one-note bass beat with the occasional added tinkling of keyboard and guitar.

Though it seems HORSEBACK may have multiple personality disorder, I really enjoy the listening experience that “Half Blood” provides. Equal parts homespun and unexpected; this is definitely an album that will leave open-minded listeners intrigued and ready for future releases.

4 Star Rating

1. Mithras
2. Ahriman
3. Inheritance (The Changeling)
4. Arjuna
5. Hallucigenia I: Hermetic Gifts
6. Hallucigenia II: Spiritual Junk
7. Hallucigenia III: The Emerald Tablet
Jenks Miller – Vocals, electric guitar, piano, bass, lap steel, ebow, keyboard, synthesizer, tanpura, shruti box, drums, percussion, processing, fuzz fx
Record Label: Relapse Records


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Edited 26 March 2023

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