Friday, 8 February 2019

A Pale Horse Named Death - When the World Becomes Undone (2019)



Country: USA
Style: Gothic Doom Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 18 Jan 2019
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Sal Abruscato, who leads A Pale Horse Named Death, sees his new band as a gothic doom metal outfit and there's truth there. Just listen to Vultures and you wouldn't slap any other label but doom onto it. The title track begins with what sounds like a harpsichord under chanted poetry, oddly muted as if it's being delivered through a radio, so I'll grant them the gothic too.

However, this isn't remotely what I imagine in my head when I think of gothic doom. It's an interesting mix but it only takes half of the title track to figure it out. Once the initial vocal part is done, it becomes urgent with pounding drums and a driving bass, kicking into the promised heaviness around the three minute mark (five if you count the intro) and it's clearly gothic doom filtered through Nine Inch Nails, an energetic industrial vibe underpinning everything.

In keeping with that nineties influence, there's a Smashing Pumpkins line in catchy emotional lyrics. I could throw out choice selections such as "I've got this funny feeling that God is dead", "Love the ones you love to hate" and "I tried to figure out what's wrong with me" and I've only covered the first three songs that have lyrics. The third is particularly full of them. It kicks off with, "I fell inside my hole again" and progresses to "How do I figure out this mess that's me?", "Emotions crushing everything inside of me" and "I'm never getting out of my black hole."

If we were in any doubt as to Sal's lyrical tone, a few tracks later explains the despair: "It's pretty clear it's the end of days." After all, that fits the names of the band and this, their third album. The apocalypse is coming and that means we ought to be depressed, OK?

The other obvious influence is Type O Negative, the nineties go to goth metal band, and that's no shock given that Abruscato was their original drummer, as he was with Life of Agony. However, this is far from Type O and not only because it has a lot more doom to go with the goth and because it doesn't sound like Danzig in the slightest. Compared to what I remember from Bloody Kisses, this is far more consistent in tone, with fewer pop and punk elements. Personally, I still think of Pete Steele from thrash band Carnivore rather than Type O. I get my goth kicks from other bands.

Frankly, I like this more, but it's still an acquired taste that isn't going to be for everyone. Abruscato knows it's depressing but suggests that the bird that sings in the background of the final track, Closures, "a recording of an actual outdoor funeral with a priest speaking over a casket", is enough of a "sense of enlightenment". I disagree but do hope that anyone looking for music to slit their wrists to listens to him on that. It's "something to look forward to in the end." Hey, We All Break Down felt darkly cheerful to me. Does that work?

From a musical standpoint, there's consistency here but still variety. Love the Ones You Hate is a catchy track that reminds of commercial era Paradise Lost. Vultures is a heck of a lot heavier, with that distorted guitar and vocal sound that pervades much of the album. We All Break Down has something of a grunge feel to it.

And what that all boils down to is that this is primarily an album for alternative children of the nineties. Maybe that explains why they have accounts on more social media platforms than I've ever heard of. Whether it means that they're behind the times or slightly ahead of the eventual nineties nostalgia wave, I'm not sure.

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