Review Summary: HORSE The Band's 3rd Album is a mix of songs about animals, Indians, and other strange topics with their signature goofiness that makes them a fun listen, but in these songs there is a truly incredible musical talent and technicality that HORSE had yet to Disclaimer: HORSE THE BAND IS NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY. This being my first actual review, and the fact that I personally love this band, do not expect this review to be without its share of bias. However, if you are approaching reading this with constructive criticism or just trying to find out whether you want to buy or listen to it, by all means, continue reading!
You should not under any circumstance listen to this band if: You don't like Nathan's vocal delivery, you hate nintendo sounds, you hate napolean dynamite look-a-likes, you take all your music extra seriously at all times, you can't take a joke.
1. Hyperborea - This song begins with basically silence, with a hint of wind blowing. It explodes into HORSE's signature sound after a few seconds however of 8-bit sounding keyboards, and crushing metal-core style riffs. However, the new drummer Chris Prophet immediately sticks out from the old one on R. Borlax and The Mechanical Hand. He's got a ton of talent and he plays some pretty ridiculous fills and off-tempo beats that would make Blake Richardson of BTBAM and Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater throw out the horns. The tech-metal-ish sound of this song sticks through pretty much the entire album, so get used to it. This is HORSE The Band 2.0. Quick tempo changes and seemingly random parts come together in this song to make a very frantic sound, but it's put together incredibly well. A particularly intense part of this song is when Winneke screams "Don't stop moving, don't stop breathing" while the musicians of the band, particularly Engstrom and Prophet show off their skills. Overall a solid track. 8/10
2. Murder - Only HORSE The Band would write a song about being murdered by an Indian. That being said, this is EXACTLY what this song is about. This song is very NES sounding in particular from the very beginning because of the keys, but begins to take a heavier turn by the end of the track. At around the 1:35 mark of the song, the keys are featured and it sounds basically like an old NES game exactly and goes into a particularly brutal metal-core style breakdown. This song is very dark lyrically, but obviously very humorous as well because talking about "using the skills of the wolf" and "selling the boy and horses to the snake that you cannot see" aren't very serious topics. Near the end of this song, another incredible breakdown hits right as Nathan screams "LET IT FLOW!". It's very technical and can be compared to work done by August Burns Red and BTBAM during this point. Overall, this track is very well done. 9/10
3. The Startling Secret of Super Sapphire - Another thing you may know about HORSE The Band is that their albums tend to feature characters that are most likely inside jokes within the band. On the Mechanical hand, an example of this would be Lord Gold. This album's fictional character is Super Sapphire, apparently another brainchild of vocalist Nathan Winneke. This song begins with basically ambience and cuts right to the chase with a huge part that builds into the verse. This verse riff is met with Nathan's signature style of brutal, seemingly spastic and half spoken-half sung lyrics along with his ridiculous screaming. This part is very melodic, hitting you with an aural assault. Erik's work on this song is especially very good. A reoccuring theme of this song is Super Sapphire smiling for really no apparent reason. A very melodic part hits again after the screams about smiling, into a very 80's beat from Engstrom and Nathan basically doing more goofy vocals. The keys at this part tended to make me laugh because they were just so out there and reminded me of when you hit a golf ball out of bounds in a nintendo golf game. This is some of HORSE at their best both musically and personality-wise. 9/10
4. The Beach - If you have listened to HORSE before, then I don't need to explain this track to you. We as listeners will probably never understand some of the tracks they put on their records and this is one of them. While they most likely find it incredible funny in some sort of way, we only hear a woman crying with keys accompanying it with the sound of seagulls in the background. This is obviously a HORSE inside joke that we will never understand. 3/10
5. Face of Bear - A song about Nathan's new and current obsession, the bear. This song is brutal all the way through. The lyrics are laughable at times with lines like "Don't feed the bears or the bears will feed on you." as well as what sounds like Nathan's interpretation of the noises a bear makes when he mauls someone. This song is an obvious joke (like most of HORSE's material) but is extremely well written musically. Chris Prophet again goes into great drum work and the band genre-hops to what sounds like to me a tip off to prog rock with seemingly random guitar parts a-la The Mars Volta along with incredible drum parts. The songs takes a turn into a very mellow sound. This is when one of my favorite verse lyrics of the album takes place.
"Soon the silent
Nights grow long
Neither plant nor beast
Have walls or doors
To protect them from the greatest of the omnivores
Over my head
***, I'm dead"
Well written lyrically, but also extremely humorous. This is HORSE's style at its finest. The song continues its brutality after the mellow part and eventually ends with the chanting of "Face to face with face of bear" along with another breakdown while Nathan screams "Face the bear, I'll face the bear." 10/10
6. Crickets - This song is yet another song like The Beach. While this one is easier to find humor in because he sounds so serious, and the topic of the song is basically about crickets making noise. The song has ambience of crickets singing while Nathan recites a poem-like monologue. The song goes into a pretty melody for a short period of time and goes back to the crickets and fades out. 6/10 for humor value.
7. New York City - The single! This song features some very impressive drumming and some great work from Dash and David in the guitars department. It tends to change tempo often like some of the other songs and is very heavy and fits together impressively well, despite the seemingly random tempo changes. This song also sports one of the catchiest choruses I believe HORSE has ever written. Winneke sports some very well sung clean vocals here, which are not often heard by him. Suddenly after the chorus, Winneke screams incredibly well twice, both for long periods of time. This song definitely sports Winneke's improvement on vocals from the past works and has a very 80's feel to it at times. The song goes into yet another tempo change with nintendo-sounding keys with Nathan shouting "Go, go, go, stop go." and immediately transitions into an epic breakdown with fireworks going off behind it. The song ends when the breakdown stops and fireworks continue to shoot off. 10/10
8. Sex Raptor - Yet another example of HORSE being goofy. This song is basically their take on an 80's dance hit. The lyrics are hilarious and the drum beat and keyboards give me 2 pictures... one being a guy with an afro break-dancing, and the other being... well, pr0n. The chorus is surprisingly extremely catchy. Nathan sings with interesting vocal effects "I prowl the room, I prowl the room, for something sweeter to consume." during this chorus while the synth plays its catchy dance beat and Prophet continues with a porno-groove beat of sorts. This song never leaves its humorous roots and continues as an 80's dance song all the way through the end of the song. This song, though not something HORSE would usually do, is well written, well played, and well executed, not to mention catchy as hell 7.5/10.
9. Broken Trail - Imagine that! Another seemingly pointless song! Basically this song is extremely distorted guitar and feedback with an organ played. While cool sounding at first, after the 3:16 of the song's running you're thinking when will this end? 4/10
10. The Red Tornado - This song is yet another pretty brutal song with technical metal roots. The song itself seems to be about a robot called the red tornado. The bass line of this song is particularly cool at times. Prophet and Isen are on their a-game here. There are some really heavy arpeggios about halfway through the song from Engstrom and Isen. Then the song takes a drastic turn to yet another genre-hop. This I can best explain by saying it sounds like Summoning's first album Lugburz. It's very black-metal influenced, with fast guitar melodies and blast-beats from Prophet. I enjoy this song just because of the extremely well executed black-metal riff and the quite epic-sounding guitar and keyboard arpeggios. 8/10
11. Treasure Train - This song starts off with clean guitar and a nicely executed bassline and drums from Prophet. This turns into Winneke screeching "HANG ON!" over and over again amidst some heavy riffage that can only be described as controlled chaos. Isen puts some really cool guitar-work into this with some slightly distorted riffs and what sounds like an excess of phaser on them. The song becomes quite catchy with Engstrom's sing-a-longable keys and good bass fills as well as solid rhythm guitar. And Winneke as usual is putting a lot of effort into this and sounds ace. The song ends abruptly and leaves a bit more to be desired... but instantly the next track picks up. 7/10
12. His Purple Majesty - Hey look! Another made-up character for the lulz of HORSE members. I believe this one is supposed to be Erik's alter-ego. This song is heavy and has some pretty awesome guitar/key harmonizations near the beginning. This song has some really heavy guitar riffs in it as well as some funky bass lines that sounds like they've been chloroformed and date-raped by Victor Wooten. A lot of really interesting stuff is in this song. The drumming as usual is quite impressive at times with quick, technical fills and blistering double bass and I really enjoy the guitar and keys in this song which I find difficult to describe other than quite melodic and complementing to the song. I enjoy this song a lot. 9/10
13. Kangarooster Meadows - This song I blare everywhere I go in my car, much to the dismay of my passengers. This song sounds fresh out of a gay-pride march. The keys are incredibly flamboyant. David is featured in the clean vocals in this song. The lyrics are just plain hilarious. The other vocals done by Nathan are especially funny. Nathan begins by saying each letter of the word of the song title. "K.... A.... N...." his gutteral vocals echo. However, he runs out of time the way the song is written and just has to sum up the rest of the word in "GAROOSTER." This also happens with the second word as he grunts "M....E....A....DOWS". Gang vocals are brought in to further the goofiness and if that wasn't enough the song ends with the band and whoever else they could muster it seems cheering in a highly homo-erotic fashion. This song is a must listen, just because it's guaranteed to make you laugh. 7/10
14. Rotting Horse - A clean guitar begins us off on this song with a very mellow sounding progression of plucked chords from David. This song repeats this chord progression pretty much all the way through with different ambience going on in the back. Near the end, the keys come in with a really neat sounds, basically which sounds like a cross between an organ and a string orchestra, but it's fed through a distortive device to give it extra crunch. The bass is also incredible distorted. There are no drums in this song whatsoever. 5/10 being meh and repetitive.
15. I Think We Are Both Suffering From The Same Metaphysical Crisis - Wow, what a title. This is my opinion is probably the coolest song HORSE has ever written. The song features some of the best drum work on the album. This song is also very frantic, and changes tempos often. Nathan's vocals in particular compliment this song because his anguished voice tends to make it sound heavier. The song fades into a black-metal sounding riff and goes into keywork with video game sounds which sound like they may be from Mario Brothers. During this madness of jumping, 1-up sounds, 8-bit explosions, and other ridiculousness Nathan sings "Time after time" quite sweetly making it oddly attractive. The guitar goes into a very fast picking part as well as some blistering double bass from Prophet. Nathan once again sings his sweet "Time after time" melody. While he sings, David plays an extremely tasteful metal riff over it, and Prophet continues his awesome drumming. The song goes into silence abruptly, but this isn't over yet. Some great guitar effects distort the guitar and some very complimenting bass work with some nice bass fills come in over the distorted leads of David Isen. The only truly normal sounding keyboard part is also featured here along with some of Prophet's coolest drum work on the album in my opinion. This instrumental continues for the rest of the song, but brings in some even more nuts drumming from prophet and that old 8-bit keyboard that we've grown to know and love. The last minute of the song has one of the coolest melodies HORSE has ever written. Very epic sounding and the chugging continues for the remainder of the song. 10/10
16. Lif - This begins with what sounds like a national radio transmission. This is also a very ambient track with some very cool melody work from Isen backed with the keys. This song is strangely quite pretty at times. The sounds behind this basic melody include the ocean, crickets, what sounds like birds, a bear, the woman crying with the calls of seagulls, and the track slowly fades out. 6.5/10
17. Crow Town- I find this song incredibly hilarious. It may take a musician to get the joke, but basically, there are about 10,000 build-ups in this song that lead to nothing. Picking from Isen that is quite sloppy really (but it adds to the hilarity) along with tom and cymbal rolls from Prophet... and you guessed it... each time you think something's going to happen it really doesn't. But out of nowhere, something does happen! At around the 2:30 mark, drums kick in with an actual beat and the bass backs the guitar melody and the song is quite tasteful. The entire song is backed with sound clips of crows calling their signature "CAW". 7/10 because it's hilarious.
18. MIDI file of Track 1
19. MIDI file of Track 11.
Overall a solid release from HORSE, some tracks that make you go "Why did they bother putting this on here" and some tracks that really make you go "WOW! This is HORSE?"
Chris Prophet's Drumming
Some of the heaviest HORSE songs to date
Some tasteful genre hopping
HORSE is hilarious
Some tracks make you go "wtf"
Bass is inaudible at times
Some songs sound lackluster at times
Recommended Tracks from the Reviewer:
I Think We Are Both Suffering From The Same Metaphysical Crisis
New York City
Face of Bear
Overall, 8/10 or 4/5!