June 4, 2007

CD Review: HORSE the Band - A Natural Death

HORSE the Band is a curious oddity on the modern musical landscape. They do not have much in the way of mainstream name recognition, but they do have a highly dedicated following. Self-proclaimed practitioners of nintendo-core. Yes, you read that right. It is small, to my knowledge, sub-genre of post-hardcore/screamo that integrates 8 bit synthesizers that bring to memory the music to games from the original Nintendo system. Think Mastodon in a mash up with Metroid and Super Mario Brothers 2, odd to be sure, but definitely a step in the direction of originality. A Natural Death is their third full length release, and first since 2005's The Mechanical Hand. To my ears it is a step up from that earlier release, it features stronger songwriting but does not stray too far from the elements that make them stand out.

In a press release keyboardist Erik Engstrom spoke of the new album, "A Natural Death is about the futility and arrogance of creation and destruction, the overwhelming scale of space and time, and the brutal majesty of nature, the horror of birth and the beauty of death. Everyone who will ever live will die a natural death, and will soon after be forgotten for eternity. Hopefully this album will serve as a warning to the human race to stop taking itself so seriously, as we have seen the dire consequences of its actions in the future. You are nothing."

Interesting, but that also points to one of the things that hase turned me away from the band as a personality outside of their music. They have a bit of a self-important pretentiousness to them. I am sure it is at least partially tongue in cheek, as they have a decidedly offbeat sense of humor, but reading quotes like that just make me want to ignore their interviews and just stick with the music. OK, enough of that.

A Natural Death is a lot of fun. It is out on the fringe, but it is so damned intriguing. It is the kind of music that, when you first hear it, you will have one of two reactions. The first would be to just write it off as nonsensical bollocks, turn it off, never look back, and get on with someother music listening. The other would be to be curious, for good or bad, and continue listening to it. I fall into the latter category.

I first became aware of the band earlier this year when I had gotten my hands on a copy of The Mechanical Hand, an album where I covered similar ground in the two reaction possibilities (something I still hold to be true). That album was intriguing, I didn't love it, but I loved the experimentation that it represented. In addition to that, I also got to see them live, and that is a unique experience.

Now, getting a taste of the new album, that is something different altogether. I am not quite the newbie I was when The Mechanical Hand arrived, but I am also not quite the fan that they would perhaps like me to be. However, this album is without a doubt a step up in quality over that last disk. The oddly timed rhythms, quirkly layering of sounds, and just overall songwriting is greatly improved. There is something about this disk that drew me in a lot faster than they did before and held my attention.

Something that did strike me right away was the drumming, it was pretty insane, and much better than I remembered from the last disk. Come to find out, the band has a new drummer, Christopher Prophet, and this guy is good, a little jazzy, a little funky, a little hardcore, all elements that blend well with the off the wall music being played her. Combine that with the Nintendo-keyboard sounds of Erik Engstrom, which seem to be of a higher caliber this time around, and the nice guitar work from David Isen, and bass from Dash Arkenstone and you have a recipe for a glorious disaster. In a good way. I would have to say that the weakest link is vocalist Nathan Winneke, and that isn't to say its bad, he fits in fine.

When you get the chance to listen, there are a few songs that you will want to focus on. You won't have to wait long, as the opening track, "Hyperborea," is one of those intriguing tracks. Others include "Murder," which can be heard on their MySpace page, "Face of Bear," "The Startling Secret of Super Saphire," "Sex Raptor," and the short spaghetti western styled instrumental "Crow Town." Of course, the whole album is very good, borderline great. I am impressed with the overall increase from the last album. Don't miss this one.

Bottomline. So, when the album drops at the end of August, be sure to get yourself a copy. It is sure to be an interesting experience, even if you are a fan. I will say that this album has drawn me much closer to being a fan, A Natural Death is one of the more interesting musical expereinces I have had for some time. Unique, energetic, and inventive. This is a winner.

Highly Recommended.


Anonymous said...

I've never been a fan of tossing around the "pretentious" label, as it could be applied to virtually anyone who expresses anything. Why speak? Because you think someone will listen? That seems like a natural conclusion, otherwise you'd be the creepy guy muttering to himself in the corner. Oh, but it's their lyrics, then that you're referring to? Yeah, I guess incorporating heavy philosophical undertones into cleverly written and often hilarious lyrics will surely kill any credibility you could have. I mean, if you're not singing about girlfriends or crushing your enemies you're just being a pretentious asshole. But, since it's tough to make jokes out of the typical lyrical topics, HORSE would probably have to resort to fart jokes because I don't think they could write an album without a serious dose of humor. I guess that would be for the best. That's probably the reason why nobody listens to them and everyone reads this blog.

Chris said...

Actually, I was referring to the interview quote. If you read the review you would see I really like this album, just not the stuff I see from them in their interviews.

Anonymous said...

mr anonymous sounds like a right wanker haha, seriously how can you not love this band? they have such a unique and great sound and they make the music they want to make unlike so many astists who just play what they're told to

Anonymous said...

Horse The Band's amazing. From the mood, to the lyrics, to the all around energy. Sure, they're not practical but who the fuck wants to listen about some guy who got dumped for being a queer when you listen to a song about a raptor gettin his freak on. This is they're best album yet. And they actually really did get serious with this one. The whole album obviously has to do with life. I mean the last song wraps up everything. I give it a 9/10. And a hell yeah at that. The frist guy can STFU also. Thank you.

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