Horseback - _Half Blood_
(Relapse Records, 2012)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7 out of 10)
It is difficult to review a record. It is even more difficult to review a Horseback record. This would be easier if the band had any sort of biographic information in any accessible pocket of the Internet. It would also be easier if the band stayed on one style throughout any of their records. But this is not the case, and in 2012 we are given _Half Blood_ -- one of the most odd and genre bending records of recent memory. When introducing this record to people, I usually say the words "country", "post-rock" and "black metal" in the same sentence. This does not help people, as _Half Blood_ is a perfect title for a record halfway between identities and sometimes unsure of direction.

Most of this confusion surrounding Horseback occurs even though their last few records are available for streaming. By now, I am sure we could grapple the concept behind krautrock drones overshadowed by metallic memories. _The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet_ is a 2011 compilation of two previous releases, with one being only available on cassette. 2010's _The Invisible Mountain_ is the direct musical descendant of _Half Blood_, though still clouded by uncertainty. What is apparent is approaching Horseback comes with little assurance of understanding yet a powerful feeling within dense experimentation. I may not know where to place this in a record store but I know I will remember the name.

As stated before, _Half Blood_ shares similarities with _The Invisible Mountain_. Both owe a great deal to droning krautrock jams which builds rather than refines. Both releases have the distinct black rasps which soar over dust ridden trails. Both album covers are visually striking and partially abstract. Both records teeter between experimental jams and full blown psychedelic noise. Both offer little accessibility but completely ensnare their audience.

_Half Blood_'s embrace of krautrock and psycheldelia is apparent throughout, but crystallizes in its second half. The three part closer "Hallucigenia" pays tribute not only to the Popol Vuh and the German innovators, but other black metal bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, who have also employed its influence. Throughout the 21 minute trilogy, the use of atmosphere and space is impeccable. It is what is not said and done that is truly the highlight of this section. Horseback could only exist in a time when metal is no longer defined by old rules and regulations. Even in an era where experimentation is accepted, _Half Blood_ still pushes and asks for more than people are willing to give.

While the record is intellectually sound, it will be a few years before it will ever be emotionally pleasing. Though the use of drone, noise and rock reference allows for dense analysis, it will never be a party record -- at least not yet. _Half Blood_ now sits on my record shelf wedged between Sunn O)))'s _Black One_ and whatever bootleg of Jacula I currently own. If you would like to come over and discuss the album with me, you can name the time. If you would just like to listen, however, I may be busy that day.

(article published 3/6/2012)


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