HORSE The Band – A Natural Death
Release Date: August 28th, 2007
Record Label: KOCH Records
A Natural Death marks the third full-length release for everyone’s favorite video game inspired hardcore band. Despite its creators containing some of the most lethal senses humor in the business (the band left a tour last year to record an EP about…well…pizza), the album also marks a decidedly (gulp) mature sound for the HORSE The Band. When I say mature, I don’t mean it in the sense of lyrical content (come on, there is still a song called “Sex Raptor”), I mean that the band has come a long way in terms of writing, creating their most focused release to date. Nintendo-core fans get excited because the most anticipated (and only?) album of the genre is finally here.
With an intense live show and an interesting concept, HORSE The Band has always had a lot more potential than what they were putting on record. How does their latest release measure up? Whereas R. Borlax was the first glimpse of their trademark sound and The Mechanical Hand saw the band building on that formula (albeit with a few flaws in production that held it back), A Natural Death is HORSE The Band finally hitting their stride. My two major complaints with their first two releases were the drumming and the production. The drums sounded flat and struggled to keep up with the pace and the production left a little to be desired. Luckily, both of those drawbacks have been fixed and then some courtesy of new drummer Christopher Prophet and spot on production courtesy of Brian Virtue. The new coat of paint on the production allows the vision of the band to finally be heard as it was intended and only helps the songs come across easier. Tracks like the spastic “Hyperborea” and “Face Of Bear” are perfect additions to the band’s repertoire, with lighting fast drums and the signature keyboard sounds of Erik Engstrom now at the forefront of the mix. “Murder”, the first track released to the public is full of enough blips and bleeps to satisfy any fan of the band’s previous work. Prophet’s drumming really shines on “New York City”, a song rife with enough tempo changes to make your head spin. Tracks like this display a new technicality and ferocity absent from the first two albums, and damn does it sound good. The end of the track even features a slow melodic breakdown that builds into an all out dance fest and is sure to be the highlight of a live set.
Don’t worry, the band’s sense of humor is not lost on the album with the influx of maturity. There are a few joke interludes that break up A Natural Death as well as the hilarious “Kangarooster Meadows”, which really needs an animated series to be the theme song to. The infectiously dancy “Sex Raptor” is a fun pop number catchy enough to be heard (I shit you not, this happened) at a sixth grader’s pool party. The only drawback I could foresee with the band’s latest foray is the same that has been plaguing the band since their inception; some people might not take their sound seriously. These people are also probably the same people that can’t appreciate it for what it is, a fun and unique album that might just surprise you after a listen. Sure the vocals can sound off key and out of place at times. Yeah, there might be a little too much filler as well, but when you realize how hard you are tapping your foot or banging your head when the album really kickstarts, the little details don’t seem to matter. Or maybe those aforementioned people just have no sense of humor. Either way, HORSE The Band have turned in their most ambitious release to date that also happens to be their best yet. If this progression keeps up, count me excited to hear what comes next.
...but this new album is genuinely wonderful - well written, it flows quite well, and it's intriguing if anything. It can drag at some points, but it sort of reminds me of older Cave-In and bastardized Dream Theater throughout.