Wednesday 8 November 2017

TRACK PREMIERE & REVIEW: Pale Horseman - "The Fourth Seal"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 24//11/2017
Label: Independent

Pale Horseman offers a special sort of heft to their music, with mesmerizing guitars convulsing, vocals crunching  and the drums creating a war beat that is stifling in weight.

"The Fourth Seal" CD//DD track listing

1. Final War
2. Witches Will Gather
3. Aokigahara
4. Bereavement
5. Gnashing Of Teeth
6. Forlorn Extinction
7. Pale Rider
8. Tyrant
9. Phantasmal Voice

The Review:

It is difficult to tackle Pale Horseman's "The Fourth Seal" without unpacking some of the histography. Many people are familiar with the Biblical Seven Seals referenced in many areas of popular culture. The fourth seal is explored in the Old Testament's Book of Revelation, chapter 6, which reads: "When he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see/And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

The fourth seal and pale horse are also familiar to those who follow fringe culture. William Cooper, whose 1991 book "Behold A Pale Horse" is regarded in UFO and militia circles with some reverence. The tome's iconography relies heavily on AIDS conspiracism, suggesting HIV was created to eliminate people of color; on the existence of Illuminati and alien collaboration; and allegations President John F. Kennedy was murdered because he was about the reveal to the American people the existence of extraterrestrials. Cooper himself would go down a Council of Foreign Relations/Masons/Bill Clinton/Second Amendment anti-government rabbit hole during the 1990s, until he died in a shootout in 2001 with cops seeking to arrest him for tax evasion.

While you get lyricism inspired more by Biblical firestorms than by Cooper, the apocalyptic similarities in Pale Horseman are unmistakable.

Chicago's sludge/doom peddlers have been cutting a prolific path of destruction. A self-titled 2013 full length was followed by full length albums in 2014 ("Mourn the Black Lotus") and 2015 ("Bless the Destroyer") as well as a 2016 split with The Mound Builders. That kind of creative spark is rare in a lot of metal, and particularly among doom bands. Yet Pale Horseman does it, and has received plaudits for that breakneck pace and muscular performance.

Pale Horseman kick off the latest release with "Final War," which is a spectacular example of why Pale Horseman has garnered so much attention and praise. The melodic guitars contrast with the heavy bass and drum, while the vocals show a diversity and range you do not normally hear as much in doom. The group stays true to what it does best, but shows its musical chops by starting its full-length with a song that lets you know there's a willingness to experiment as well.

Critics have remarked that Pale Horseman offers a special sort of heft to its guitars. "Witches Will Gather" shows you why. Mesmerizing chords convulse hard across the first sixty seconds, until the vocals come crunching in. The onslaught continues in "Aokigahara," where drums create the war beat while the rest of the band joins in on a track that is stifling in its weight. "Bereavement" is similarly dense, while also giving a glimpse at Pale Horseman's mournful songwriting.

"The Gnashing of Teeth" returns to the rhythmic, thick sludge of the opening cut, and you can hear a range of influences here. The same can be said of "Forlorn Extinction," where hints of Neurosis are distinct. To a few, that sort of derivation is unwelcome. Pale Horseman make it enjoyable by making its own stamp on it with songs like "Tyrant." Those colorful lyrics ("night of bloodshed," "fire in the sky") are vivid, just as they are in "Phantasmal Voice," which concludes the album.

The threat for a group with such high output is that so much music means a rushed product or underdeveloped ideas. Pale Horseman does not encounter that dilemma just yet. There seems to be no shortage of power, with more to come.

"Fourth Seal" is available to preorder/buy here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook