Boy Meets Machine – War Horn
Record Label: Self Released
Release Date: 24th July 2011
When the opening to War Horn's first track, Assisted Suicide Note, really begins, after the sirens die down into a twinkly guitar line accompanied by Joel Monet's soaring vocals; my first thought was 'Modern American Prog-rock... this is going to be an interesting forty-five minutes'.
And in fairness, I don't think I was far wrong, at least in terms of the album being interesting. After the multiple, complex movements of Assisted Suicide Note, the following track (and clear choice for a single), Chemical kicks in. This is a bouncy, hook driven track that has more than a hint of modern British pop-punk to it; the interest continues.
As the album continues, a pattern does, however, start to appear, with the majority of the tracks sticking to an alt-rock formula, with a touch of experimentation at times that keeps the listener guessing. The rhythm section creates the real driving force behind the record, this much is obvious. The opening to Exit Strategy is the first time this becomes abundantly clear. The bass line in particular is so forceful it becomes impossible to ignore, the vocals even seem to come into sync with the pulsing rhythm. And whilst this forcefulness is not ever-present, the restraint displayed when necessary gives the recording a sense of maturity that may not be immediately audible when one considers the way that Monet's vocal range and guitarist Mike Mentz's treble heavy style almost have an air of showing off.
This is not to say that the vocals or guitar parts do not have places in which they also shine. The picking in Buildings, for example, fit perfectly with the attitude of the song. The darker style of the verse, mixed with the more upbeat, yet aggressive chorus is complimented very effectively by Mentz's guitar, and I believe that the fact there is no solo present in this track again shows the restraint that is needed to create an album which allows the listener to come back and listen again, rather than writing off a band for trying too hard.
However, the unnecessary experimentation does creep back in towards the end of the album, with the penultimate, funk orientated track, Piracy, seeming to come out of nowhere and steal the cohesion that the album had seemed to be picking up since the end of Chemical. This is not to say it is a bad track, the musicianship is fantastic considering how different to the preferred alt-rock sound the track is, but it does just seem, if not unnecessary, then at least misplaced.
Overall however, I found War Horn to be an impressive effort, from a group of obviously talented musicians. The next time I hear one of their albums, I would like to hope that they have decided which style they prefer, although I am sure whichever route the band chooses to take, it will most certainly be done in a professional manner.
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