Music » Album Review

CD Review: Horseback's Half Blood

Relapse; Release date: May 8, 2012

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It's been almost three years since Horseback released The Invisible Mountain. An elegant reconciliation of leader Jenks Miller's conflicting interests — namely the autumnal thrums of his 2007 debut Impale Golden Horn and the blackened abrasions of his follow-up Milh Ihvh 7-inch — Invisible Mountain lent pastoral beauty to crushing drone, dragging riffs for miles in epics that were at once hypnotic and haunting.

On the surface, Half Blood seems like little more than an Invisible Mountain expansion pack, a refined restating of that album's sounds and arrangements. After all, Half Blood mimics its predecessor's structure — the first half refashions black metal as desert rock, Earth-inspired riffs backing Miller's transfixing and affected growls. The rest deconstructs that architecture in a 20-plus-minute drone composition where metal hallmarks fade into a darkly warming blur. Impressive to be sure, but also dangerously close to an Invisible Mountain rehash.

But Miller is known for his subtlety, and upon closer listening, Half Blood blossoms. It accomplishes the same conciliatory mission as Invisible Mountain on a grander scale, absorbing the myriad styles Miller has explored in the singles and collaborations that spanned Horseback's album gap.

Opener "Mithras" embeds a spacey organ beneath its burly riffs, co-opting the sci-fi chills of 2010's Forbidden Planet EP. "Hallucigenia," the three-part suite that closes the LP, appropriates the electronic bleakness of Miller's Pyramids collaboration, juxtaposing it with the redemptive tones of Impale Golden Horn.

With Horseback, the present and the past are never far apart. On Half Blood, they untangle slowly, revealing new wonders with every spin.

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