Congratulations, Relapse: Mortician is no longer the silliest band on your label! Seriously, though, I absolutely have to start this review off with an impressively portentous paragraph from the label’s press sheet so that you, dear reader, can fully appreciate the mind-melting cognitive dissonance that follows once you actually hear Half Blood:
“‘Half Blood’ naturally shifts from Americana twang to fiercely evil buzzing guitars to hypnotically meditative kraut-drone with a level of confidence that takes other bands years to master. Horseback’s ‘Half Blood’ is Neurosis on a Neil Young overdose, Earth after being locked in a room with Merzbow for weeks straight. This is an album at once immediately captivating as well as rewarding for those who treasure music that reveals new twists and turns with repeated listens.”
Notice to whoever wrote the above paragraph: the Pulitzer Prize does not presently have a category for “Most Ornately Crafted Heap of Glorious Bullshit.” (I checked.) Having had the, er, benefit of actually listening to Half Blood—an experience that the writer has apparently and understandably spared him/herself—I literally laugh out loud at that last sentence every time I read it. I can truthfully say that reading this press sheet hyperbole (hyper-hyperbole?) is an incalculably more pleasurable experience than listening to Half Blood is.
In reality, Half Blood has nothing to do with evil, or kraut-drone, or Neurosis, or Earth, or Merzbow, and if it’s immediately captivating, it’s for all the wrong reasons, like granny porn or Google-imaging nude Casey Anthony pics. The Neil Young part is pretty much spot-on, at least to the extent that most of Half Blood sounds like half-baked Crazy Horse songs, minus that band’s sloppy charm, spontaneity, rawness, wonderfully messy guitar solos, or authenticity. And let me quickly sum up the twists and turns you can expect: they threw run-of-the-mill black metal vocals on top of demo-quality, single-riff rock songs. No, I’m really not exaggerating. To be fair, the monotony is broken up by a few lazy sounding, fuzzed-out dark ambient interludes, but juxtaposed against the goofy “what if Neil Young was eeeeevil?” vibe, they are simply given no chance to cultivate any atmosphere whatsoever, any more than throwing “scary” ambient interludes on a Taylor Swift album might work. (Hell, at least that‘d be interesting for a minute or two.)
What’s more is, Horseback have no apparent sense of humor about this shit at all. Take a moment and Google an interview with band mastermind Jenks Miller. Dude is abnormally smart (which also begs the question, is he really from North Carolina?) and so infuriatingly pretentious that he makes Robert Fripp look like Reba-motherfucking-McEntire. Sadly, this is all just further evidence that Half Blood is an unintentional parody of black metal self-seriousness gone hilariously awry. Hey, great cover art, though!
Short Attention Span Summary
Pros: Great cover art, solid drumming
Cons: “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we replaced the vocals on this Neil Young album with generic, shitty black metal shrieking?” (Surprise: it isn’t!)