"A Natural Death" (Combat; 2007)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Horse the Band return with the fourth installment of what the band has lauded as Nintendo-core with "A Natural Death," a CD laden with 8-bit keyboards that sound straight out of a 1994 video game (hence "Nintendo) while bludgeoning the listener's ears with a souped-up screamo sound that goes above and beyond the usual I-hate-my-girlfriend shtick (hence the "core"). 

Capable of creating intense layers of somberness on "Rotting Horse" as well as a widespread array of curious cacaphonies of chaos on cuts like the upbeat and ridiculous "Kangarooster Meadows," the tongue-in-cheek Western feel of "Crow Town," and the post hardcore spaciness of "New York City," Horse the Band is an outfit that has triumphantly carved out its own distinct niche while pushing heavy music's creative boundaries to the max for a listening experience akin to spending a day at the amusement park. 

Be prepared to be turned on your head thanks to this quintet's twisted tunes that manage to portray their whimsical and incredibly hard hitting sides equally. 

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"The Mechanical Hand" (KOCH / Combat; 2005)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The Combat label has been resurrected by KOCH and I thought I'd be in for some good old fashioned thrash and hard rock. Life is full of surprises and Horse The Band was about to throw a pretty nice surprise my way.

Horse The Band is a hard rockin' emo-core band that was pretty apparent from the get-go. However, the strange keyboard sounds started getting to me. Emo bands don't do keyboards like this it sounded like the music on old video game systems. And then it dawned on me this is the "Nintendo-core" sub-genre that I'd heard about (perhaps when reading the alternative music press magazine SPIN, maybe?).

Some of emo-core's recognizable traits are in Horse The Band's music melody, for one, but also a healthy dose of guitars and emotive vocals. But wait, there's more Horse The Band gives emo-core a swift kick in the fanny by laying out some fairly traditional song structures amidst the standard screamo hollering and riff-centric breakdowns. And as you might guess, the keyboards and synthesizers add some jagged, completely left-of-center noises and colors that make "The Mechanical Hand" a most truly unique sonic experience. In fact, the keyboards are the anchor in Horse The Band not some nice underlying mood pieces that would be hardly unnoticed if it wasn't there in the first place. Otherwise, Horse The Band seem to draw from a very broad palette of sounds which includes traditional '80s metal as well as hardcore.

The lyrics aren't all that serious and it's downright nonsensical at times. This is confirmed by the irreverent content found on the band's website. I guess these guys don't take themselves too seriously and that's a nice change for once.

I tried to give myself one logical band that I'd heard in my past that I could compare to Horse The Band. All I could think of at first was The Blood Brothers minus the over-the-top intensity. And then it dawned on me much in the same way that Dog Fashion Disco still rock hard but in daring, uncharted way so too does Horse The Band rev up the musical engines in an interesting way. Whether or not that is refreshing and/or good to your ears is primarily due to your willingness to accept change as a way to move music forward or at the very least to go in a different direction for a while.

I can usually figure out whether I'm going to like an album or not by the end of the first listen. I did not like "The Mechanical Hand" the first time I listened to it. In fact, I had to listen to "The Mechanical Hand" about a half-dozen times to really get a sense of what it was all about. While I get the sense that "Nintendo-core" will be a bright ephemeral flash in the proverbial musical pan at least I can see and appreciate what the fuss is all about. 

The bottom line is that Horse The Band isn't for everyone. But for those of you with a sense of daring and discovery Horse The Band is pretty good entertainment.

"The Mechanical Hand" was produced by Matt Bayles.

Horse The Band: Nathan Winneke on vocals, David Isen on guitars, Erik Engstrom on keyboards and synthesizers, Dashiell "Dash" Arkenstone on bass, and Eli Green on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2007 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02 Oct 2022 15:17:12 -0400.