Review Summary: HORSE the Band have made their hands-down best album to date. Original, unpredictable, and unrelenting. Any fan of music will find come out with something to enjoy if you give "Desperate Living" a chance.
"The Year of Metal" is one way to describe 2009. In my opinion, music hasn't been this exciting in underground and mainstream metal in very long time. HORSE the Band, the “Nintendo-core” pioneers (although there hasn’t been much of a following), in the past haven’t seemed to take themselves seriously. I can remember in 2006, I had the privilege of seeing them live on Warped Tour in Montreal. At that time, I wasn't there to see HORSE the Band. I enjoyed the music because it incorporated 8-Bit Nintendo Keyboards with a metalcore influenced rhythm section. I couldn't take them seriously because it didn't really sink deep into my subconscious, therefore never letting me realize how talented these guys really are.
"Desperate Living" takes everything that HORSE the Band have been plagued with in the past, throws it in the trash and takes everything they've succeeded at doing, and have made a very progressive album unlike anything you've heard before. Describing their sound on "Desperate Living" is very difficult, due to the fact that it is so diverse, and incorporates so many genres, that I can't put on a label on who this will appeal to. "Cloudwalker" comes in with the HORSE the Band sound we've all come to love, and you can instantly notice through the first minute that they, along with many veterans of underground metal, have stepped their game up in 2009. Erik Engstrom shows that he is the most interesting, brilliant, clever and original keyboardist in metal, maybe even in music. His role is center stage tonight, and I couldn't be happier. In video game terms, "Cloudwalker" could be described as a very high level being achieved in Tetris and ends with beautiful 8-Bit brilliance. Trust me, it truly is phenomenal. "Desperate Living" is one of my favourite songs on the album. It's a very serious song and sends shivers down my spine. Oh wait...it just cheered up. HORSE the Band can genre switch along with the pros. Between the Buried and Me are my favourite band, hands down, but they had their year last year and I can deal with that. The end of the song really get's me; I felt that their more playful/less serious style wasn't too far out of reach.
"The Failure of Al Things" is Erik's finest hour. The samples and orchestration he achieves is beyond amazing. David Isen is top notch as usual; I always enjoyed the guitar lines such as "The Immense Defecation of the Buffalligus" and "Murder". He has a very interesting style; don't go looking for Paul Waggoner or Guthrie Govan. Isen keeps it simple and appropriate, and compliments and shares the rhythms section with great ideas and fills from Dan Pouliot. The drumming has improved immensely and it shows their progression from R. Borlax until now. "Horse the Song" is simply great. Quite possibly the best song that they have ever written and showcases completely where they are right now in music. Nobody can touch them at this point; they have truly taken "influences" into context and applied anything and everything. "Science Police" just has a single written all over it. Very catchy, melodic and all the instruments get highlighted in this gem.
"Shapeshift" is 10/10, 5/5 or whatever you want to call it. I'm not going to bother describing it to you because you just won't understand. Just listen. "Golden Mummy Gold" just shows how strange these guys really are, and you can't help but commend them for it because it works dammit! The end of the song is HORSE the Band at their heaviest, great build up -- great breakdown.
The vocals provided by Lord Gold are top notch and has found his niche. He has a distinct style -- screaming, singing, shouts, sarcastic voice trembles...it's great. "Rape Escape" should be a contender for song of the year, in any genre. It starts with an 80's dance club feel and at the same time, sounding more relevant than ever. Valentina Lisitsa provides the piano in the last two minutes of “Rape Escape”. I really don't know much about her but Beethoven would give her a high five. Beautiful, brilliantly structured masterpiece of a song.
There's not much more I can about this album. It's simply a great piece of work. HORSE the Band have made their hands-down best album to date and this is surely on my top 10 list at the end of 2009. Original, unpredictable, and unrelenting. Any fan of music will find come out with something to enjoy if you give "Desperate Living" a chance.