‘Mourn The Black Lotus’
7 July 2014
Scientists recently discovered a 50,000-square-mile peat bog in a remote part of Congo – a massive, shoe-slurping swamp packed with billions of tons of decaying vegetation. But that is nothing compared to the immense pile of sludge created by Chicago’s Pale Horseman. This Godflesh-inspired racket is bleak and filthy, but often expansive and expressive. Behind the sludge, there are distinctive hardcore and industrial undertones, and plenty of groove when required. Depending on the song, you might hear echoes of Obituary or Neurosis, Celtic Frost or Fear Factory.
The guitars and bass are heavy enough to shatter glass, although giving you a headache does not seem to be the band’s primary motivation. The drums add a lively musicality to the misery, although the irritation of the ‘clicking’ bass drum lessens their overall effectiveness. The vocals are an impassioned, mournful roar that fill you with a sense of revulsion, awe and terror, especially on the song ‘Conquistador’.
So, Pale Horseman have all the weapons required to create a great record, but while their second full-length release is impressive, some songs are more compelling than others. ‘Whispered Wings’, for example, is a little awkward and does not flow – for all its relentless heaviness and grinding riffage, it feels like it might have been developed into something bigger. Similarly, the track ‘Black Lotus’ doesn’t quite convince.
However, ‘Running For The Caves’ provides a satisfying slab of slow, chunky early 1990’s death metal, while ‘Clairvoyant’ – the most upbeat track on the album – delivers a more engaging, almost stoner-style vibe that encloses you like a green mist, hypnotising and enthralling. The song loses some of its focus the longer it goes on, and is marred by some ugly guitar warbling later on. ‘Fork In The Road’ is a remix (by Justin K Broadrick of Godflesh/Jesu) of a track from the band’s 2013 self-titled debut album. It’s a curious, otherworldly new version – a nasty, industrial joyride underscored by seething distortion and effects-drenched vocals.
‘Conquistador’ is an intense and skilfully controlled sludge assault with a pretty epic guitar solo. Perhaps best of all, though, is ‘Grudgulence’ – a song with real muscle and personality. An emotional and heartfelt composition, this track features a swirling riff that builds into something monstrous, while the interesting time signatures keep you guessing throughout.
‘Mourn The Black Lotus’ is an often idiosyncratic album that occasionally reaches great heights, and generally delivers a kind of gleefully apocalyptic sludge that proudly pays homage to the likes of Godflesh and Obituary.