"Half Blood"

By Earthdog

Horseback created some impact when they released their 'Invisible Mountain album a while back. The band wasn't totally doing anything new but the album was so totally refreshing and addictive that it easily put the band up there as one of the very best newcomers to the doom, stoner, sludge and psychedelic metal scenes. Looking at the band on paper, their style shouldn't work at all.

They play a blend of Ufomammut-ish psychedelic doom mixed with black metal, American blues and folk, roots music and Pink Floydish 70's rock. It is no easy task to define their sound in just one sentence but they have a minimalist approach to riffs, melodies and harmonies that is somehow greater than the sum of the parts. To top it off they always manage to create an atmosphere that is so enticing that it just leaves you hypnotized.

I am sure that someone, somewhere has already said this about Horseback but I don't think there is any other band that manages to mix the grotesque with the beautiful with such ease and make it sound so seamless. Usually when most bands try their hands at this kind of musical experimentation, it ends up sounding like a musical pig breakfast but Horseback have this knack of coming up with weirdo ideas and making them work.

It is hard to know exactly what kind of listener this will appeal to the most because doomsters, psych-rock fans to post-rock nuts to general metal heads and everybody else in-between, including mainstream rock people should find a lot to love with 'Half Blood.' There are two sides to this album, one is nihilistic, the other is sheer emotion and beauty. Call me crazy but at times this band remind me of Neil Young & Crazy Horse circa 1971 gone metal while at other times it is Ufommamut jamming with Pink Floyd and trying to play atmospheric soundscapes that conjure up visions of American deserts and mountains.

The albums highlight and centerpiece is something called "Hallucigenia" which is split into three parts starting with 'Hermetic Gifts' which bleeds into 'Spiritual Junk' and ends on the 12 minute passage titled 'The Emerald Tablet.' In two words this epic piece is surrealistic desolation. The second half of the 'Half Blood' album is based around a lot of droning and harmonics that are blended to create a very ritualistic atmospheric sound. I like to think of this as a kind of soothing, relaxing ugliness, it is minimalism but played on an epic scale of grandeur. The first half the album is a bit different again; there are a lot more melodies and it is a bit more simple in concept but it is no less hypnotic and atmospheric. Out of these tracks, 'Mithras' and 'Inheritance (The Changeling)' are immensely enjoyable pieces of relaxing but sonically ethereal soundtracks and are album highlights. This review is probably as about as confusing as the mish-mash of styles on this album but it just has to be heard to be understood on any level and even then, you will most likely hear something different to what I heard. If you ever wondered what bands like Pink Floyd might have sounded like with a doom-metal influence, you must hear this. 'Half Blood is not an essential masterpiece but it is damn close....9.5/10.