Horseback
A Plague of Knowing

Since the day that I first gave The Invisible Mountain its first spin in my Hi-Fi last year, Horseback have compelled and intrigued me to no end. I was blown away by the sheer audaciousness and ambition of that album – just four songs stretched across nearly forty minutes of music, each song underpinned with just one riff, and in the case of the first three songs a gargantuan, hypnotic bass line. The follow up, entitled Half Blood was more rich in melody and sonic depth, making it incomparable to its predecessor, yet a fantastic listen too, reaching Swans-esque levels of catharsis and intensity.

A Plague of Knowing, like many rarities/live compilations, is for people who already know and love Horseback, and serves as a great showcase for the scope of the band’s sound. It features some of the most ambitious songs the band have ever attempted, testing the listeners patience and ears to extreme levels, as well as some of their most straightforward, accessible material

The first disc is the most typically Horseback (if such a thing were possible), with Jenks Miller’s harsh, buried vocals behind the fuzzy, miasmic guitar. The band have an incredible gift at producing beautiful, droney and ambiguous sound collages – ‘Another World’, ‘MILH’, ‘IHVH’ and ‘Oblivion Eaters’ are good examples of this, but the best is the almost classical sounding ‘Broken Orb’. ‘Heathen Earth’ starts with an innocuous, very ordinary bass/drum combination, however additional instruments soon make their presence known, and eventually you are sucked into its insidious power. The first half of ‘Thee Cult of Henry Flynt’ is as straightforward black metal as the band have ever produced, and consequently one of the less interesting moments of the album, but ends with a typical Horseback soundscape. Another curveball is thrown in the shape of ‘TV Eye’, a bluesy tune more typical of 70’s hard rock than anything else.

Disc two is more electronic in nature; featuring weird processed vocals by Jenks and programmed drums, yet avoiding the kind of sound created by co-conspiritors of the underground Locrian. It’s still richly melodic, yet said melodies are more up front and immediate than those on the first disc. Songs like ‘North Star Stuck’ and ‘Murdered Again’ are long winded yet interesting dronescapes. The last song (not including demos/alternate versions) is ‘Recite’, yet another example of the sheer versatility of this band – acoustic guitars, glorious soloing and dreamy vocals.

If you found it hard to stomach the first two discs, the third will challenge you even further. Consisting of two songs stretched over an hour, this is drone at its most intricate and demanding. Approach with an extremely open mind!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jack Taylor
September 23rd, 2013

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