Black Math Horseman
Black Math Horseman



by Pedro B. USER (364 Reviews)
October 21st, 2022 | 2 replies

Release Date: 2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A worthy comeback release, but not the essential post-metal masterpiece the debut might have hinted at.

The music world, like the comic book world (and, to a lesser extent, other creative arts) appears to live by the old adage 'never say never'; in fact, much like hardly anybody in comic books stays dead forever (with the notable exception of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben) so, too, are separations or hiatuses seldom the end of the story when it comes to musical acts. A few years may elapse, often even decades, but inevitably, any act for whom there is a demand (or for whom creativity has once again begun to flow) will attempt a comeback in some form or another, often with somewhat different formations, but with their musical essence generally kept intact.

Even with this in mind, however, nine years is still an unusually long time for a band formed on the near side of the Third Millennium to remain inactive, especially one which never officially announced a disbandment or hiatus; the speed at which trends move, and acts are forgotten or replaced as the 'next big thing' in the minds of listeners, retreating into the ether for that lengthy of a period is a far greater risk than most artists are willing (or can afford) to take. Yet, that is exactly what Californians Black Math Horseman – creators of one of the most genuinely innovative debuts in post-metal history, and one of the most refreshingly original albums of 2009 – elected to do, placing their career in the musical equivalent of cryo-sleep sometime in 2013, only to resurface nearly a decade later with a surprise set of four new songs, which effectively amount to their first new recordings in a staggering thirteen years.

With that long of a gap between releases (not to mention almost two years to come up with new material after their comeback in 2020) and their reputation as innovators within the post-rock genre, it stood to reason that the new songs should show Black Math Horseman progressing even further along their chosen sonic alignment; yet lead single The Bough, while going some distance to assuage notions that Black Math Horseman may have somehow softened their aural proposition, also showed a worrying lack of evolution for a band almost a decade and a half older and more experienced. In fact, when placed next to the songs from 2009's Wyllt, the track showcased remarkably few differences, mostly related to a more seamless integration of the band's dual heavy and atmospheric approaches within the same song, which brought them closer to the post-rock stylings of Godspeed You! Black Emperor than their previous Neurosis and Isis worship; even still, precious little for a group who, with their debut, had at least made an attempt to reinvent the post-metal wheel.

Sadly, the remaining three tracks on the group's eponymous comeback EP do little to dispel the impression made by the lead single; on the contrary, while undoubtedly top-tier post-metal compositions, they cannot help but feel somewhat underwhelming for an act with as much potential as the four-piece displayed on their debut; in fact, early playthroughs of this album fail to grab the listener by the collar the way Wyllt did, and only through perseverance do the best elements of the album begin to shine through - namely the dense, oppressive, percussion-heavy passages driving Black Math Horseman (the song, which opens Black Math Horseman, the EP, by Black Math Horseman, the band) and the latter half of follow-up Bear Domane, which further invite comparison with Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Elsewhere, Sera Timms' most intelligible vocals to date bring attention to the verse sections of The Bough, perhaps the best of the four tracks contained within these twenty-five minutes of music, which bleeds seamlessly into closer (and shortest track of the Angelenos' career) Cypher – which, ironically, ends up being as blank and unremarkable as its name suggests.

In the end, then, while checks and balances continue to work out undeniably positive for the Californian four-piece across these four new songs, Black Math Horseman have nonetheless missed a golden opportunity to push the boundaries of their sound out even further on this comeback release, displaying none of the daring, adventurous, game-changing spirit that made Wyltt such a pleasant surprise; fans of that record, and of that group as a whole, may therefore find themselves a little underwhelmed by this new offering, which, while making for a dignified second statement in what is hopefully a revitalized career, is a far cry from the debut's mind-blowing combination of originality, atmosphere and aggression, making for a worthy comeback release, but not the essential post-metal masterpiece Wyltt might have hinted at.

Recommended Tracks
Black Math Horseman
The Bough

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Comments:Add a Comment 
October 22nd 2022


Wicked review. Just found this album. Never heard of them but I'm liking what I'm hearing so far, to an extent.

October 22nd 2022


Album Rating: 3.5

If you like this one, go out of your way to listen to their full-length. It's like this one, but better.

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