posted on 1/2008 By:
A lot can happen in six and a half minutes of music. If you’re Joe Satriani, you can play approximately ten thousand bajillion holy-shit licks and wow your audience with technical prowess that is outshone only by your bald head. If you’re Mr. Bungle, you can cycle through every genre known to man and back again. If you’re Electric Wizard, you can inhale half the reefer forests in Afghanistan. If you’re The Jimi Hendrix Experience, you can play “Third Stone From the Sun.” And if you’re Whitehorse, you can…let your amps drone away while your drummer tools around on his ride cymbal and some guy mumble-growls echoey shit from the next building over. If this sounds like just-shy-of-seven minutes in heaven to you, or if you’re still chowing hydrocodones and bewailing Khanate’s demise, then you might pop a boner for this Australian mega-doom exhibition.
Though this self-titled double disc is officially Whitehorse's studio debut, these guys have been around for a good four years now and have released a whole string of live albums and CDRs. In fact, of the five tracks available here (yes, five tracks on two CDs; you know where this is going), only one is completely new. If you’re one of the rare folk who’ve been keeping up with their output since their inception, there may be little reason for you to track this down.
But if you haven’t, and you’re enamored with the whole ungodly slow melody-shunning school of doom metal (the aforementioned Khanate, Buried at Sea, HALO, etc.) then chances are that Whitehorse will further annihilate your trashed stereo in all the right ways. The first disc—recorded in an actual studio, which is a rarity for these guys—kicks off with “Fire To Light the Way” (the previously described six and a half minute noise festival), which in terms slides into the first ‘real’ song, “Everything Ablaze.” The track is a damn enjoyable and promising doom/sludge workout. There’s the expected overwhelming bass presence and stick-shattering drumming, but the track wrenches itself out of its own faceless murk with the aid of some surprisingly driving beats and a nostalgic guitar line that wanders vagrant-like through the carnage. Further, Whitehorse restrain the track to a merciful ten minutes, shedding just a wee bit of extremity in favor of some much-needed color and restraint.
The remaining track on the first disc (“The Unwelcome Return,” which is the album’s sole new song”) and the two live cuts that constitute the second disc are all 20-minute-plus super-slow tirades that verge on jam status. Each vacillates aimlessly between hyper-distorted muckraking, shellshocked ambience, and arrhythmic noise spats (there’s a guy in this band whose stated instrument is “squalls”), with little to distinguish one from the next except the order in which the parts arrive. The music flows like a concrete river—glacial in pace, immense in weight, harsh in consistency, and almost completely without memorable features.
The simple fact of the matter is that this type of doom, like most kinds of metal, has been done before and done better (I was always partial to Buried at Sea), and unless you’re really into this style for its own sake, Whitehorse won’t be a particularly shocking or memorable listen. That said, it’s a pretty solid excursion into the realms of fifty beats per minute, so if those ‘codones are making this sentence harder and harder to read, you might wanna check Whitehorse out.
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