08 May 2012
by Jon Kerr
Half Blood is a deeply depressing and schizophrenic album. Jenks Miller, the chief creative force behind Horseback, has created an album very much of two halves – with each not entirely complimenting the other.
The four, almost indecipherable, vocal performances that open the record are set within a retro, doom-laden space rock environment. In places, it sounds like the musical result of a shared acid trip teenage versions of Ritchie Blackmore, Toni Iommi and Ray Manzarek, gathered together for little more than just to see what the audible results would be. These songs (‘Mithras’, ‘Ahriman’, ‘Inheritance (The Changeling)’, and ‘Arjuna’) provide twenty-one minutes of darkness and gloominess that is little more than superficial. The lo-fi drum sound adds little weight to proceedings. Of these, only ‘Mithras’, ‘Ahriman’ and ‘Arjuna’ can be counted as “rock” songs on this record – and while of course there is a place for retro influences – the guitar sound on Half Blood is passé and the vocals are simply jarring howls and snarls.
Song-for-song the first half possibly betters the second for immediacy, but it’s in the later stages of Half Blood that Miller flexes his more experimental muscles. The ‘Hallucigenia’ trilogy is almost entirely instrumental. Listening to it is a journey in time to the deep, dark ‘70s, when the post-hippie subculture were experimenting with LCD in graveyards. As you might expect, the recording techniques do create a more contemporary overall feel, inviting comparisons of Half Blood to the early psychedelics of Mogwai or My Bloody Valentine. Some moments are reminiscent of the territory Trent Reznor explored with Ghosts I-IV, but they too were experiments in mood, rather than an exercise of songs written with the intent to transport the listener beyond the stratosphere. The shards of noise, multi-layered guitar effects, and a few vague lyrics, all combine to create a mostly disorientating triptych.
Wrapping the album up in artwork by Russian symbolist painter, Denis Forkas Kostromitin, is just added confirmation of the pretentions of theis new Horseback offering. There are just too many instruments (bells, field recordings, signal processors), too many effects, and not enough direction to give the album cohesion. Keep on experimenting, Jenks.
Sounds Like: Neurosis, Rainbow/Ritchie Blackmore, Nine Inch Nails instrumentals.
Standout Tracks: Ahriman, Arjuna, Inheritance.