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Horse The Band - A Natural Death (5/10) - USA - 2007

Genre: Metalcore / Progressive Thrash Metal
Label: Koch (USA)
Playing time: 55:36
Band homepage: Horse The Band

Tracklist:

  1. Hyperborea
  2. Murder
  3. The Startling Secret Of Sapphire
  4. The Beach
  5. Face Of Bear
  6. Crickets
  7. New York City
  8. Sex Raptor
  9. Broken Trail
  10. The Red Tornado
  11. Treasure Train
  12. His Purple Majesty
  13. Kangarooster Meadows
  14. Rotting Horse
  15. I Think We Are Both Suffering From the Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis
  16. Lif
Horse The Band - A Natural Death

I’d never heard HORSE THE BAND before, though I’d certainly heard of them. Nintendocore, combining nostalgic childhood memories of 8-bit video game soundtracks with frenetic, a bit technical Metalcore. Nobody from "The Metal Observer" has had anything kind to say about them and Wesley in particular seems to have dissected the limited appeal of their reliance on irony and the nostalgia of a still fairly young generation. But let it be known that HORSE THE BAND’s fourth album, “A Natural Death,” sees the group expand beyond its beginnings and try to establish its own identity.

 

For much of the album, the Nintendo elements are played surprisingly close to the breast. Sure, keyboardist Erik Engstrom uses an LSDJ Gameboy cartridge and a Roland Juno-D synthesizer, apparently the same model used for scoring many 8-bit games, but (try to follow me here) the style is much more complimentary to a Metalcore or even Avantgarde group than a video game. There are certainly exceptions—notably “Murder”—but the similarity is generally in the tone instead of the structure. Of course, by distancing itself from their trademark idiosyncrasy, the band is forced to take a stand based on its own compositions.

 

These compositions feature a lot of time changes, twists and turns, never to the extent of a DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN knockoff, but much more than your average Metalcore group. Vocalist Nathan Winneke spends most of the album screaming and growling his head off, but he’s got some isolated clean parts, which are hit or miss. At times I wish the band would develop their ideas a bit more—parts of “New York City” in particular could have been fleshed out—but they don’t have as great an issue with this ailment as, say, BEHOLD… THE ARCTOPUS. There’s a lot of self-congratulatory, allegedly material stuff here, which hurts, but when the music does get serious the Nintendo-sounding keyboards hurt more often than not (“Murder” is again the great exception to the rule).

 

The album also has a lot of inexplicable deadweight. “The Beach” is a minute of a woman crying amid beach sounds and atmospheric keyboards, “Crickets” is cricket chirping amid similar keyboards, and “Sex Raptor,” while a cute idea with its up-tempo, dance sound, outstays its welcome and isn’t as cute as the band seems to think. The static and aimlessly meandering organ of “Broken Trail” doesn’t do anything and “Kangarooster Meadow” is just odd. I like the sunny, summer children’s show theme song feel, but it simultaneously pisses me off for reasons I can’t really put my finger on. Nothing happens in “Rotting Horse” (perhaps appropriately) and all “Lif” does is tie together the deadweight. Out of sixteen tracks, seven just don’t need to be there.

HORSE THE BAND deserves one credit, at least; when I received this album to review, I figured it’d be a quick, eye-rolling bash job. They have overcome this preconception and made me actually want to think about the album. I see a lot of potential here in “Murder,” “New York City,” and “I Think We’re Both Suffering From The Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis,” but “A Natural Death” is also a self-indulgent album in need of an editor capable of both trimming the fat and reining in the group. I’m curious to see how fans of the old material will react to this release.

(Online December 1, 2007)

Keith Stevens



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