By Earthdog

Whitehorse from my old home-town of Melbourne, Australia features former and current members of Love Like...Electrocution, Mr. Hyde and the Jeckyls, Terror Firma, Breeds There a Man and True Radical Miracle and have churned out sonic blasts of doom for longer than most people realize. Their début self-titled album released in 2007 was a masterpiece that received 100% and 10 out of 10's in reviews all over the world including from yours truly. Why then, this band hasn't reached 'legend' status is beyond me but I will move on. This new album is called 'Progression' but is it really progression? In many respects, I feel the band has actually gone backwards at least in terms of style. The self-titled album was unique within the genre they played but this album is closer to sounding like many other bands in the death, doom, sludge, drone-metal genre of music. Despite all that, this album is still a head-splitting album of agonizing and drawn-out doom. Only 5 songs that still manage to take up 38 minutes but this is a painfully short release and that is disappointing.

While this album is closer to generic death-doom than anything they have done before, they still blend in sounds reminiscent of Khanate, Neurosis, Swans, Winter, Sons of Otis, Ramesses, The Dead, Spinewrench, Coffins, and the funeral doom of bands such as Evoken.

That is a fairly wide range of sounds and styles and that is exactly what Whitehorse is like as nothing is too obvious but there is hardly any big surprises either. 'Mechanical Disintegration' is the opening track and I guess you could call it psychedelic bluesy sludge played to the sound of volcanic eruptions. There is an underlying industrial vibe going on through the track as they use a lot of off-the-wall strange noises to add to the bleak cold atmosphere of the piece. There is the odd hint of melody but there is basically a 'dead' vibe to this. The first element that I noticed that was different between this and earlier works is there is less droning passages which gives this a more traditional death-doom vibe. Not a bad thing in itself but it does take away some of the band's original uniqueness.

The title track 'Progression' follows in a similar vein and there is not much to say about this track except it is extreme oppressive doom but nothing too spectacular by Whitehorse standards. The next track however titled 'Remains Unknown' is a red-hot smoking slab of stomach-churning corrosive doom-metal that lasts for over 10 torture-filled minutes. The rumbling bass, tribal slow drumming and the overwhelming atmosphere of sheer nothingness or emptiness is hypnotic. It is completely derivative of many other bands in the genre which is something that brings this album down in my view but it is still a mesmerizing example of how to do it. 'Control, Annihilate' is the albums shortest track and is also the albums most forgettable track. It is not a complete dud but it has a thrown-together to fill up time on the album kind of feel about it. This track and the title track are straight-forward death-doom tracks that sound like they are holding themselves back somehow. The songs threaten to go hog-wild at any moment but they are always pulled back in at the last second.

The album ends though on another winner, 'Time Worn Regression' which is Whitehorse at their very best. The elephantine riffing, the guttural growls and screams of torture dig away at your brain for nearly 10 exhausting minutes. There is also a bubbling, kind of churning noise in the background that seems to be waiting to spew out of the speakers at any moment. That moment never comes but it creates a certain extra tension to this track. So what you finish up getting is 'Remains Unknown' and 'Time Worn Regression' which are two essential tracks from Whitehorse that make this album still worthy of a place in your CD collection. The rest of the album is average though and I hate to say that because I am a huge fan of this band. The fact that the album is fairly subdued means it requires some memorable passages to keep it interesting. Sadly it doesn't have too many of those. I am also a little worried that the band may be trying to attract a more alternative audience for their music and I may be 100% wrong but something about this is suggests they are moving into a more mainstream direction. However this album which is more like a EP really is a good introduction to the band if you have never heard them before. Buy this first and head back into their past and more extreme catalog of doom-works. Yes I am disappointed in this album but considering how great their self-titled album was, maybe I raised my expectations too high........7/10