HORSE the band
A Natural Death


2.5
average

Review

by Nick Greer EMERITUS
August 17th, 2007 | 106 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: HORSE the bland

HORSE the band - A Natural Death

Fire photons, ptew ptew; HORSE the band are back with a new album. This means:

-Metalcore
-Keyboards
-Alternative Press taking the term "nintendocore" for realsies
-Animals appearing in lyrics
-Sick minimal budget music videos
-Alternative Press noticing that HORSE the band is "mathier"

A Natural Death delivers on all of those bullet points, in fact, more so than any of their other albums. There is something off about this release though. I first noticed it with the almost gauche inclusion of the Kangarooster in a song title ("Kangarooster 4057" don't count). Usually Nathan keeps him stabled in his den, and he only elicits lols via the internet. However, A Natural Death features a HORSE the band that is willing to sacrifice their good taste (yes, I'm being serious) for the sake of churning out more nintendocore facemelters, which leads to mediocrity, excepting a few sparks of inspiration.

From a statistical point of view, A Natural Death is probably a technical leap for HORSE the band. Their previous two albums tossed around some asymmetric time signatures and some cool guitar riffs, but the shredding on A Natural Death is unprecedented. The combination of both Dash and Chris joining the core crew of Nathan, Dave, and Erik, expands horizons on this album. The bass is pretty unstoppable, gulping up the low end in the background. The extra business is appreciated, though the bass feels mixed down a lot of the time, rendering the new playfulness sorta nugatory. The drumming too seems to be a step above typical releases, but isn't particularly creative, and seems to just be eating off the plate of previous HORSE releases, mixing upbeat dance rhythms with punk double time gallops and off-kilter mathy stuff. The playing is better but the results are somewhat similar. In terms of the core 3, I'm sort of unimpressed. Nathan's vocals seem a little....refined? They still have their crudeness but aren't as showstopping and entertaining as on previous releases. The vocals on "Crickets," which should be an exhibition of spoken word gone slapstick, is sort of flat. Tracks like "His Purple Majesty" have too much distortion at times, leading to a distracting vocal performance, versus an engaging one. And speaking of distracting, "Kangarooster Meadows" hardly taps into the goofiness of the vocal eccentricities of the Pizza EP. The guitar is improved a bit. I dig the riffing on this album a lot, but I wonder if it could be catchier. Same with the keyboard; in theory, everything should be slightly better, but I'm at a loss at why the parts aren't as fun or memorable. There's no breakdown from "Seven Tentacles, Eight Flames" on this album. There's no 1:37 interlude from "A Rusty Glove" on A Natural Death. There's no rocknroll hammer and pull-off riffing like from "Birdo."

And it's this lack of memorability that plagues this album. Excepting the really well-written "Face of Bear," the protruding dance track, "Sex Raptor," the catchy "The Startling Secret of Super Sapphire" and the epic "I Think We Are Both Suffering from the Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis," this album doesn't have any standout songs. There are memorable oddities like the vocals on "Kangarooster Meadows" and the bitter western sounds of the animal songs "Crow Town" and "Rotting Horse," but in terms of great songs, this album is barren. For all of the mediocre tracks though, like "Treasure Train," there are interesting diversions like the fun but slow "Murder." In the end the quality of songs, even taking into consideration the conceptual aspect of the album, sorta yields a middle of the road collection of songs. On previous HORSE the band albums you'll have songs like "Birdo" or "Hansome Shoved His Glove" that are fun and engaging for their entirety, but here, it's just not happening.

I think a lot of the problems on A Natural Death stem from the lack of taste I mentioned earlier. All of the ingredients are there, but the band seems bogged down by a newfound technical proficiency and the weightiness of producing a complete work under the pretext of creating a concept album. In the days when HORSE the band didn't mind throwing around power metal harmonies underneath bouncing keyboard melodies, every track was fun as hell. Here, there's an angularity, almost professionalism, to the design that straight up diminishes the appeal of HORSE the band. A band that managed to be a successful metalcore band while not taking themselves seriously, writing songs in major keys, dressing normally, etc., is now getting a little too refined for their own good. I liken A Natural Death to Snakes on a Plane; it knows it's working with a funny / ironic aesthetic and that self-awareness turns against the appeal of the premise. Producers reinserted Samuel Jackson dropping some more "motherfucker"s into the movie because meme kids reading digg.com thought it'd be awesome. HORSE the band also knows they have carved out a niche and an audience and are pushing their style a little too hard and a little too obviously throughout A Natural Death. I could hardly imagine this effect is intentional, but it sure is present. It's tough to say this about a band that has produced two killer and shockingly original LPs, but, they've beaten themselves.

At the same time that I'm bashing the album though, I'm still bouncing my jaded little head to most of it. Just because it's not as good as previous releases, doesn't mean it's bad. HORSE the band will always be fun, but have not brought their A game to A Natural Death. Maybe touring with Dragonforce made them realize how fun their own music actually is and they needed to pull the rug up from under themselves. Either way, I recommend this album with reservations. There are lols to be had, but they are inferior to those of previous releases. Man, I still like this a lot, but it's like getting drunk and hooking up with a 5. Why not swing a threesome with a 9 named The Mechanical Hand and an 8 named R. Borlax instead? Oh ya, wait, I'm drunk.

Recommended Tracks: Face of Bear, New York City, The Startling Secret of Super Sapphire, I Think We're Both Suffering From the Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis



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Comments:Add a Comment 
superfascist
August 17th 2007


118 Comments


I'm looking forward to getting this, but at the same time I have a lot of doubts about it being any good. I heard one song from it and thought it was boring and generic sounding.

Why not swing a threesome with a 9 named The Mechanical Hand and an 8 named R. Borlax instead? Oh ya, wait, I'm drunk.

Haha, that's great.

antihippy
August 17th 2007


696 Comments


didn't impress me as much as R.borlax. i'll needx to listen to it more to give it a rating though.

their video for new york city is funny.

The Jungler
August 17th 2007


4827 Comments


damn, I almost completely forgot about this band. I'm disappointed they didn't come back with another classic, but I can hardly say I didn't expect something woefully average. Review is great, you're dead right about AP, I might force myself to pick up their new issue (ok, maybe not force, AP is kind of my guilty pleasure) just to read their embarrassing blurb.

TojesDolan
August 17th 2007


271 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

4th paragraph, Greer. There's a messed up tag there.

Anyway, HORSE the band only exist in my head in R. Borlax and it's a huge letdown from there. I like the nintendo factor there, so probably I'll give the album a test drive.

Well written.

jrowa001
August 17th 2007


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

ive liked all of their albums so far so i might like this one. R. Borlax is so good though and they will never match that album

StrizzMatik
August 17th 2007


3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

God you rip this album way too much. I happen to think it's one of their strongest efforts yet. "Face Of Bear" owns so much ass it's crazy, and "Murder", "NYC", "Metaphysical Crisis", and especially "Super Sapphire" are all great. It's about a 4 for me right now, but I may write a review for it for a different take.

Serpento
August 17th 2007


2351 Comments


Same as Tojes, to me they're basically R. Borlax (and TMNT.) Great review, I'll give it a shot.

Understanding In a Crash
August 17th 2007


427 Comments


I'm scared to get this now because I thought the New York City song/video was a big step foward for this band after a lot of mediocre EP releases.

Abaddon2005
August 17th 2007


684 Comments


Also Recommended by Reviewer:

DRAGONFORCE - DRAGONFORCE
DRAGONFORCE - DRAGONFORCE
DRAGONFORCE - DRAGONFORCE

lmao nice.

StrizzMatik
August 17th 2007


3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Don't be put off by Nick's jaded opinion (j/k dude), this is a very enjoyable album. If you like proggy/math stuff you'll love it.

GleamInRanks
August 17th 2007


298 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Face of Bear rules, I need R. Borlax.

delder1989
August 17th 2007


44 Comments


When I think of mathcore or anything of the sorts with the word "math" in it, I hear the sound in my head of people screaming out equations and such. It's a shame to hear that this album isn't up to par with their other albums. I'll still sample it when it comes out I guess.

StrizzMatik
August 17th 2007


3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They clearly tried to do something new here and I respect that. Bands can't constantly repeat themselves or they get stale. If HORSE had put out The Mechanical Hand 2 I would've been irritated that they played it too safe. There are some dull moments here and there, but none of the songs are truly bad.

I think they did overreach a bit on the concept thing, but there's a lot of layers and subtleties on A Natural Death that make it stand out far more as an album than a collection of good songs. It's not quite up to The Mechanical Hand, but it craps on R. Borlax any day. And please guys, let's be real... R. Borlax was an average album at best with 3-4 really classic songs and 7-8 mediocre filler tracks. Innovative? Of course. Classic? Not even close.This Message Edited On 08.17.07

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
August 17th 2007


4927 Comments


can't say I'm shocked with the rating after hearing the new songs live.

DanD
August 17th 2007


86 Comments


I totally agree that it is good that they did something new... but this album just did not stick with me at all.

astrel
August 17th 2007


2614 Comments


When I heard the single I had a feeling that they might have lost some of their awesome goofiness on this album. Which isn't a terrible thing, just something I have to get used to.

StrizzMatik
August 17th 2007


3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just wondering Nick, did you review the old leak or an advance copy? B/C the newer version was re-produced and sounds a lot better IMHO.

ToWhatEnd
August 17th 2007


3172 Comments


This band never appealed to me. They were atrocious live as well.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2007


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The new version is just as eh. I'd give it like a 3-3.5. Probably a 3 though, it lost a lot of what made HORSE so awesome for me.

kalkal50
August 17th 2007


2386 Comments


who's atar by the way?



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