dead horse – Horsecore – An Unrelated Story That’s Time Consuming (1988)
I kid. This is an example of the music often known as ‘crossover thrash’, which is a fairly broad category of punk/metal fusions that include things like Carnivore. In many ways, it’s the opposite of that band – where as Carnivore had extended songwriting and relatively basic riffs, dead horse has much shorter songs, but with more complicated riffs (although they’re not all that hard to play). Lyrically, they both rely on the same ‘offensive’, politically incorrect things to some degree, but dead horse’s lyricist seems to be a more impersonal wordsmith. He relies more on third person for his descriptions, but the vocalist assists (assuming they are not the same person) in this effect by using a more aggressive, direct tone than Peter Steele did. Mike Haaga also occasionally adds tonality to his shouts (beyond what merely having intonation provides), but overall it provides a different perspective for what is arguably the same sort of approach.
Like Carnivore, many of the songs on Horsecore enter proto-death metal territory, but given an extra year of development, dead horse often ends up going deeper into the movement. There’s plenty of blast beats, tremelo riffs, bonafide death growls, and similar techniques lifted from the genre to be heard on this album, and things are often less melodic than they were on Carnivore’s Retaliation. Compared to other roughly contemporaneous albums – much more advanced songwriting than Death, more open hardcore influence than Morbid Angel’s debut, filthier than Malleus Malificarum or Illusions (both of which are also proto-death metal emerging from the speed/thrash camp) – in general, when this album acts like death metal, it acts like it on a level that’s about equivalent to that of its contemporaries. However, dead horse adds some variety to this album by incorporating significant ‘classic’ rock and country influences. Mind you, this is the good sort of country – shows its folk influences and isn’t just soft rock with a 30 second fiddle solo – but it’s a unique mixture, especially since it’s juxtaposed with a form of music that supposedly rejects older forms of pop and rock.
Even I know that punk/”alternative” rock has trouble escaping its roots in older forms of music. The Ramones liked their girl groups, REM supposedly liked the Beatles, Mudhoney wears their ’70s rock influences on their sleeves, etc. A long time ago, I wrote a sort of reflection on this trend. Extreme metal isn’t immune, for sure, but most of the refiltered influence comes from earlier forms of metal… or at least the obvious bits of it. Keep in mind that this is not a condemnation – in the case of Horsecore, songs like “Hank” belie their advanced, coherent (although brief) songwriting by showing off how much the members of the band liked these old records. The key here is that it doesn’t sound like such was just tossed in for the sake of adding things, but instead actually adds depth to the work even when it draws in initiates with its differences. Overall, it represents the successful incorporation of more conventional musicality into what would otherwise be very simple, primitive music (which may have still been effective, but we’ll never know).
Highlights: “Murder Song”, “Hank”, “Forgive”, “Adult Book Store”