HORSEBACK’s “Half Blood” sounds as if brainchild Jenks Miller had sealed all of his favorite musical acts into a jar, allowed them to ferment under a hazy North Carolina sun, and guzzled down the congealed mix when the ants finally approved. The resulting aural hallucinations must sound somewhere along these lines; growing further and further away from a semblance of humanity until it finally falls off, reaching that gloomy state where only the manipulated brain and demons will wander.
It’s a psychedelic sojourn of unique proportion and it’s no surprise that Jenks and his band-mates are receiving positive reviews from both large and small music sites. Even when the drone filters everything away into an eerie glow and you’ve simply become too lost in its ether to give a damn, the experimentation of “Half Blood” never becomes a hippie bore. Some may coin it Avant-Garde, and perhaps it is, with its touches of Americana, Black Metal, Ambient, Noise, and Folky Doom, but calling it by what it ultimately is – different – makes a whole lot more sense.
Without having heard the first two HORSEBACK albums, “Half Blood” seems very much like Metal colloquialism fashioned by a man intent on writing music the way it feels inside, and it’s this organic sound that festers and rots and wafts until the wind takes it and turns it into something mythical and hard to place.
Of the seven songs, three are of the more traditional structure. The opening tracks “Mithras” and “Ahriman” simmer with psychedelic and lazed Progressive Rock, with fluid guitar work, infectious bass lines, and fittingly simple and hypnotic drumming. Along with the equally incorporeal “Arjuna,” there is rarely a shortage of idea or mysticism; these more ‘conventional’ tracks stroll assuredly, employing their Krautrock nuances and malevolent Folk timbre with clear and unreasonably catchy affect.
The remaining four songs, which are, perhaps, a bit more challenging with their focus on Drone and Ambience, are no less mesmerizing.
The beautifully sleepy “Inheritance (The Changeling)” is a seven-minute episode that buzzes like an army of limb-hung cicada. The pianos that arrive later cycle in a soft comfort, much like a lullaby, much like an old man’s dying heart, a faintly recurring power source. The addition of vocals near the end, although surreal and echoed as if through an intercom, unfortunately loom as filler and feel a tad gratuitous, but it’s an excellent track nonetheless, and one that prepares the listener for the album’s conceptual finale.
Entitled “Hallucigenia,” these three concluding tracks round out the album in a way that ushers in an entirely new and exciting mindset. There is “I: Hermetic Gifts,” an astral projection complete with Miller’s demonic vocal work (the most Metal aspect of the album); “II: Spiritual Junk,” a more menacing space-charge that's half nightmare ride and half acid trip, and “III: The Emerald Tablet,” a 12-minute showcase of gorgeous reverberation, thumping drums, frugal piano work, and a fluming mash of intricate and colorful sounds, both mechanical and naturally endearing, that helps complete this striking and at times outlandish album.
HORSEBACK’s “Half Blood” is not your typical Metal recording, and in many circles, it’s not Metal at all. Of course, when one mentions Jenks’ horrifically inhuman vocals and the album’s occult-painted landscape, an argument can be made, but that would be missing the point. “Half Blood” is unique and frightening and bold and worthy of your attention. Dim those lights.
(Online June 26, 2012)