The twelve months between the middle of 2002 and 2003 were quite something for a drummer called Ben. This drummer is more famously known for his exploits in the band Million Dead and their 2003 album 'A Song To Ruin'. But before he made it with Million Dead, he compiled a band that never really aimed very high, and didn't expect to get much further than they did. It was an excuse for Ben, Tom, who would later become Million Dead's guitarist, Seedi and John, to just let everything out on a 45 minute British metal masterpiece.
Palehorse were about as underground as you could get, whether they were before their time is still not possible to tell, its not been long enough since the release of this album to determine whether they were, despite not even trying to be, inspirators in their chosen genre of music. What was their music? I hear you ask, what did this small time band ever do? What they did was created one of the best metal albums of the new millennia. They were dark, they were dangerous, and they were gloomy. Their music was that of a somewhat spoilt child wanting to break loose from its chains, you didn't want anything to do with the little bastard at first, until you gave it a little love and attention and found out that actually he was a very smart kid.
The intro to this album is incongruously called 'Bliss' and is simply, two basses ringing out on distortion and delay pedals. Oh yeah, and now would be a good time to announce that for the major part of Palehorse's music, they have one screaming vocalist, a drum set, and two bass guitars, detuned and distorted to ***. It's slow, it's depressing, and it's got so many attitudes that it doesn't want you to listen, but if you just listen to the phenomenal 'Holy Trinity Student Church Bar' you can't help but adore the slow, heavy riffs, and utter destruction of music itself it represents. Until of course, it reaches halfway, where suddenly it turns into an emotional struggle, of quiet instruments crescendo into an ending that makes you notice what this band are really doing, being heavy as ***, but innovative, and going somewhere with it.
There is also one other track that totally stands on its own, proving that this music isn't heartless, cold metal that is just awful and unapproachable. 'Mustn't Grumble' is a beautiful ballad, told in spoken word and accompanied by an acoustic guitar. It is a ballad, which, if you read the lyrics; tell a fantastic story of struggle, about a young homeless girl.
Mind you, the inside sleeve do look like they have been written as the scribblings of a mass murderer, but perhaps this is what is needed to suit this savage music. And although it's a strange thing to say to possibly the slowest album you'll hear for quite some time, it doesn't lose its pace. What I mean by this is, for an album with a general premier sound, which is violent and not one for the masses, it stays interesting. Its main sound may be sluggish, and yes, in places it's a tad overexaggerated, and occasionally you'd wish they would just get on with it, but all in all, it stays interesting throughout, and you just want to, listen to it, enjoy it, and consume it, even though it's most certainly not obvious.
The argument that they aren't a one trick pony is strengthened as the album progresses too. Despite not really sounding it, towards the end, the album becomes far more upbeat, and as 'Holy Trinity Student Church Bar' did before it, 'Look What Palehorse Has Done To Me' is a lot like HTSCB, but is far more upbeat, and about the same time, it breaks down into hush, but this time, a bass plays chords to samples of television, which if fiction or not, sends a great big chill down your spine in it's almost apocalyptic nature, and its here where the recognition that, you love this band, this album, this music kicks in. Until of course the bass bends a note and it turns back into a great *** off riff. But now, you're enjoying it.
Lyrics play a big part in this too. Chillingly haunting, sorrowful, emotional, but are also obscure and can remind you of Trent Reznor's writing. 'Don't Die On An Empty Stomach' (the bands equivalent of a grindcore song) is a classic example of this, and at the end of it, it rings out into the 5 minute instrumental outro of 'Sun Starved Day (Be Patient)' and you just feel a weird bliss at the end.
It's heavy, it doesn't want you to care, but please, pick up this album and don't be put off, pay its dues, and you'll have an album that will remain snappy and ironic for years to come. Will they ever make another record? Well considering the growing success of Million Dead, (and the growing feud between the bands) it really doesn't look like it, but to be honest, who cares? Whether it intended to be or not, this a gleaming light in UK metal at its gloomiest.