Thursday, October 7, 2010

HORSEBACK: The Invisible Mountain

Horseback - The Invisible Mountain
Here’s a voice, disintegrating in a bed of chiming guitars and misty drones. It was a roaring fierceness once, but now there’s only a shadow. Sounds get thicker, and it’s either tense or very, very soothing or maybe it’s both somehow. We span glaciers then. No catharsis is given. The song is called “Hatecloud Dissolving Into Nothing.” That’s a perfect name.

That howling voice reoccurs throughout this album as a trapped animal under the hulking doom-metal monolith – sinister as it lashes out, hopeless as it resigns. The lyrics are indecipherable to me, but the voice is just a key sonic detail among sonic monuments. It is not the primary focus. Like a lot of metal music, this record devalues the human voice and makes it slave to the guitar/bass/drum hellstorm. The humanity and intimacy a human voice can provide is replaced with the unsettling sound of an alien presence. There’s something living and organic about it, but it’s a creature formed from unholy unions. We’ve heard this before, in the goblin-screech of Black Metal and the demon-growl of Death Metal, but Horseback lets the creature loose in a surprisingly un-modern heave that draws a line straight to Black Sabbath, ignoring everything between Ozzy and Iommi’s early 70s milestones and this album’s 2009 release date.

That’s not to say this is an Electric Wizard retro hash-bash. There’s nothing very technical, just the slow creep of towering riffage inching slow, slow, slow over something barren and dead, but it doesn’t feel like the product of a pot-fueled delayed reaction time. This is patient music. Clean guitars ring frequently over the main riffs, and use more negative space than we’re used to hearing from “metal” guitarists.

It’s easy for this album to fade into the background, but it deserves a close listen. The desperate emotional weight that uncompromised metal can evoke is in full-force here. It’s more like a hypnotic post-rock apocalypse than a blood-and-guts metal thing. This fits the trend I’ve been noticing as I’ve explored more metal, the same trend that applies to my interest in basically any music: I am drawn to things that trespass beyond the boundaries of the genre.

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