Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
The Invisible Mountain (Relapse, 2010)
RIYL: Grails, Om
Originally released in a limited run in 2009 on Utech, Horseback's four-song mini-album The Invisible Mountain was re-released in 2010 to wider audiences on Relapse, one of the biggest metal records in the US. You might expect that would mean that this is a metal album, and I guess if the presence of (rather subdued) scruffy black metal vocals is all it takes to make something metal, then this is. I was certainly expecting this to be metal, since I first heard about this album on Haunting the Chapel's best of 2010 list, where it broke the top 10 (besting Burzum even)! But apart from the raspy vox, this is pretty much a straight-forward neo-americana/post-rock album in the vein of Om, (modern era) Earth, Barn Owl, the soundtrack for Jonah Hex that Mastodon made, and most of all, Grails. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing- do you like those bands (and that OST)? There is a good chance that Horseback's trance-inducing basslines, mournful steel guitar, and patiently unfolding darkly Western soundscapes will appeal to you. One noteworthy aspect of this album is how natural the blend of traditional American instrumentation, post-rock structures and black metal tinges is. Horseback's sound, while not terribly groundbreaking, is definitely fully formed- when Horseback hit their stride, especially on "Tyrant Symmetry" and "The Invisible Mountain", the result is an compellingly heavy groove. And the album's final song (the vividly named "Hatecloud Dissolving into Nothing") stretches out over 16 minutes, abandoning the rhythm section in favor of slowly twisting and mutating shimmery guitars and strings, resulting in a very sorrowful and moving epic. That being said, although The Invisible Mountain is well crafted and enjoyable, Horseback have yet to really bring anything new to the post-metal table. I found the mileage I got out of this album to be inconsistent; sometimes I put it on and found myself engaged and taken by the grandiose songs, whereas other times I found myself wishing that there was something more original here. Perhaps most of all I think that this is a very promising start for Horseback, and I'm looking forward to see if they can solidify their place among the already established bands in this genre. However, if you consider yourself an post-metal-stoner-Americana enthusiast, this is definitely an album to check out.