Review Summary: HORSE finally decide to start taking themselves seriously, even if it's only a little bit.
HORSE The Band is one of those bands that have a Weird Al-esque feel to them. While they do sound interesting for awhile, ultimately their sound loses the effect it had on you during the first few listens, and they fade away into the endless list of "Bands that were cool at one point but I can't remember why anymore". After their previous release, A Natural Death
, HORSE realized this and decided to do something about it. Now even though the hard/metal/whathaveyou-core quartet is taking themselves seriously, that doesn't mean they're any less enjoyable. In fact exactly the opposite has happened here, Desperate Living
shows HORSE sounding better than ever.
The album starts off with Cloudwalker
, a track showcasing most of the major changes in HORSE's sound. Most noticeable is the fact that Erik Engstrom's synths seem to be the main focus of their sound this time around, pulling vocalist Nathan Winneke out of the spotlight for once in their career, although this doesn't happen right away, Winneke and Engstrom seem to be fighting for the spotlight in the first few tracks. However this battle manages to prove itself to be another improvement as opposed to the incompetent album production we're familiar with. Desperate Living continues on this path of a completely new take on their old sound up until The Failure of All Things
. This track still contains the synth solos and synth/drum solos that have made their way into every section of the album up to this point, but also adds in more of the classic HORSE sound, for a few seconds anyways, as Engstrom decides to pull you out of Nostalgia Town and hit you with some more impressive synth work.
Desperate Living features a slew of artists who, if you really think about it, would really only make sense in a HORSEcore album as opposed to any other metalcore group. HORSE The Song
is the first of these tracks, featuring rapper K-SLAX providing the additional line or two of vocals. Following this, is Science Police
, a sort of fusion between Sex Raptor from their previous release and Britney Spears' Womanizer. Winneke pushes himself back into the spotlight with this song, if only because of the lyrics. He frequently stops singing to whisper in a seductive voice "You are, you are/ You are, You are under arrest". The end of this track signals not only the beginning of a more melodic section of the album, but probably also gets you to stop wondering what the *** you just listened to.
, one of the most straightforward and purely enjoyable songs on the album, features Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu, adding clean vocals in occasionally, which unfortunately feel like nothing more than filler until the buildup finishes and the synths kick in. Following this are Between The Trees
and Lord Gold Wand of Unyielding
, which as you might have guessed features Lord Gold and His Purple Majesty. Lord Gold acts as the main vocalist in this track, with Winneke added in only as backup for the most part. The chorus here is fairly catchy, with the following nasally rap that adding in a very nice touch of comedy. HORSE apparently decided that this much melody at one time was too much, so the track Big Business
shows its face next. The track is a particularly humorous stab at advertising and a tribute to Mexico City. The final two tracks of the album end things on a good note, with Rape Escape
featuring Valentina Lisitsa and a fantastic piano solo, and Arrive
being nothing more than a particularly strong song when compared to the rest of the album.
Desperate Living probably won't turn many haters of HORSE onto the band, but the feeling that they've finally started to get it right might bring in a few new fans. If HORSE continue on this path, their next album could very well be one of the decade's best.