Album Review



by Spook the Horses

7.9 / 10
13th January 2012

Reviewed by Ricardo Kerr

Post-rock, post-metal, metal-gaze; whatever you want to call it this style of (largely) instrumental spacey heaviness has a strong foothold in the music of New Zealand. Every major city and region has their instrumental rock champions. Wellington now has a new flag-bearer to be counted in this esteemed list. They are Spook The Horses, a hard-hitting quintet who specialise in the sort of other-worldy filth that can appease both the black-clad metal head and the chin-stroking music buff alike. They have just released their long-awaited debut album, Brighter, and it is a sprawling artefact indeed. The spacious nature of the music speaks of the vast expanses of wild land that our country holds dear. It is echoed in the fields, the mountains, the lakes, and in the desert road itself. There is an underlying sense of isolation in their music and the perverse madness that comes with it.

As a whole, Brighter has the smothering texture of doom metal but – as the title might suggest – it is far less dreary than their counterparts in the all-in-black set. While the album is mostly instrumental, there are a few vocal performances that leap out and take you by surprise. Opening track ‘Very Little Is Certain, But’ features the half-muffled howls of guitarist Callum Gay. His raw, elemental bark is favourably comparable to Scott Kelly of Neurosis. Even the prettiest songs eventually turn towards darkness, like a clear sky usurped by violent storm clouds. The cleanly strummed ‘Ashen Smiles And Backlit Clouds’ swells until it is swallowed up by feedback, leaden groove, and the return of the harsh vocals. ‘My Songs Will Be Sung In White’ provides some levity at long last over half way through the record. A clear, soothing voice rises from the buzzing swarm of sound like a breath of fresh air in a stifling room. The mournful drawn-out coda recalls the fractured art rock of Pink Floyd at their best. It is only a fleeting respite before the heavy gets turned back up for album closer ‘My Photographs Will Be Of Skylines’, a power house number that crushes and floods the senses.

Through the album the performances are subtle yet powerful. Spiralling, gauzy guitar lines intertwine like tapestry with an uncanny degree of grace and charm. The infrequent vocal performances give the listener some solid ground to cling onto, something familiar in an alien land. The cinematic music of Spook The Horses is never going to be a Top 40 chart topper, not because it is not “good enough” but because it speaks to us on a more primal level than popular music ever could. Brighter is a journey; over its duration you may not physically go anywhere but when you awake from its grip you will feel miles away from where you started.

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