Review Summary: Horseback...the new metal anomaly
Since 2007, Jenks Miller and his incredible solo project (with contributing artists) Horseback have been doing the bare minimum and yet have been creating some of the most fascinating takes on niche metal since....well....I don’t really know to be honest. That’s just the thing with Horseback though, they’ve been exploring the depths of many niche genres and taken them to incredible heights. They began their trek as an ambient drone band – essential debut album Impale Golden Horn
can only be described as a toxic, ethereal soundscape. They’ve been exploring the depths of psyche-metal mastery with The Invisible Mountains’
spiralling drugged-out post-metal that I would consider one the greatest metal albums of the past ten years. Miller also dawned his spaghetti western apparel for 2012s Half Blood
where his psych elements were stripped way down revealing a raw post-metal twang being dragged down a dusty dirt road. And there’s not an ounce of surprise in this year’s Piedmont Apocrypha
taking another turn in the Horseback evolution. What’s amazing about Piedmont
is the common thread woven through this and past albums, a thread that lingers in the simplicity and the finer qualities of music that conveys raw human emotion rather than expressing stagnation of a sound that could have easily bogged this album down.
Through Miller’s raw emotion and simplistic – but nuanced – song structures, Piedmont Apocrypha
’s opener “Passing Through” is a panoramic scene of an arid desert with his folky organ, silent post-rock march and all the while proclaiming “I was born to lose”. Miller’s vulnerability is felt so decisively on this track that anyone with half-an-ear to music would naturally be swept away amongst the majestic ringing notes, faint harmonica hums, and the gorgeous twinkling rhythm of the albums self-titled track that follows. The slow-vibe desert rock leaning on this track is also familiar to Miller’s back catalogue but it’s got something more to it. Rather, the track leads into a more upbeat indie spin on things not normally associated with his past works of haunting, shriekish psyche-metal. “Milk and Honey” and “Consecration Blues” are both equally fascinating works of Miller’s love of indie rock and strange chord progressions that wouldn’t sound out of place on Kid A
by Radiohead. As well, these two short tracks help lead up to epic 17 minute closer “Chanting Out the Low Shadow”. Anyone that thought at this point in time Miller was going to push Horseback into indie post-rock pastures is completely proven wrong once the track gets going. And no surprise here, the distinct raspy screech, psyche metal, and swirling tribal beats come together with Millers’ amazingly creative ringing notes that sound as if they’re going to evoke an unwritten Neurosis track except with a lot more melody and mind-warping plod.
The only thing I could criticize this for - besides Miller not living up to his potential greatness of past albums – is that the songs are stacked together in a very odd way where it makes the album almost feel incomplete. However, new Horseback is always going to be great and I believe Miller is taking Horseback to a wider audience and showing that he still manages to pull off surprises when he’s at his calmest and most melodic yet.