Saturday, October 25, 2014

…fleeing a lifeless vessel: HORSEHUNTER – ‘Caged in Flesh’

A swirling maelstrom of feedback and distortion, monolithic drums, and a seismic low-end rumble is a righteous introduction to Melbourne, Australia’s four-piece doom machine, Horsehunter. The band’s debut, ‘Caged in Flesh’, weighs in heavily on the stoner side of the spectrum while effectively harnessing and reigning in the acerbic savagery of sludge and the rhythmic, hypnotizing behemoth riffs of doom. With four tracks and a runtime that just tops forty minutes ‘Caged in Flesh’ is an epic undertaking, but Horsehunter succeeds by crafting songs that are varied in both structure and tempo.

Perhaps putting their best foot forward with the opener “Stoned to Death”, Horsehunter wages war on the listener with sixteen-and-a-half minutes of amplifier worshipping doom in the vein of Sleep, Demonic Death Judge, Traitors Return to Earth, and, of course, the almighty Sabbath. The tune ebbs and flows between onslaughts of undulating, fuzzed-out riffs of sonic terrorism and psych inflected waves of relative calm. For the most part Horsehunter plays it pretty straight on this track vocally, but later adopts a harsher, sludgier approach on subsequent tracks.

The title track, “Caged in Flesh”, dials in the sludge for a tune that is deceptively less dynamic than the album opener, but no less effective at laying waste through pure, unadulterated aural attrition complete with elephant-killing doses of feedback, wailing invocations of transcendence, cymbal washes, and wounded passages of crawling distortion. But just when the listener is worn down to a nub the bottom falls out and the song shifts gears and kicks into overdrive with a hypnotic groove.

The brief three minute instrumental “Nightfall” acts as an interlude of sorts before the album culminates with “Witchery”, easily the moodiest track of the album. “Witchery” is heavy, ethereal, and at times even caustic—three qualities that bring to mind the cosmic doom practiced by Yob. “Witchery” is an excellent closer as it has an intensity unmatched by any other tune on the album.

As far as debuts go, it doesn’t get much better than what Horsehunter has achieved with ‘Caged in Flesh’. Despite only four tracks the album never grows wearisome or begins to feel like a challenge. The band definitely has a deft hand at knowing when to change things up in order to keep the listener engaged. It will be interesting to see how Horsehunter develops in the future, especially with such an accomplished debut under their belt. A killer album that only gets better through repeated listens.



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