Horseback – The Gorgon Tongue Review

The Gorgon Tounge: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet

The Gorgon Tongue – Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet
Relapse Records
Available May 10, 2011
Genres: Drone, Ambient (Impale Golden Horn) / Power Ambient, Black Metal (Forbidden Planet)
RIYL: Aix Em Klemm, SunnO))), Earth

7.7 / 7.1

It’s difficult to discern whether a band is going for a money-grab with a re-release, or if they are trying to help new fans explore their older records. Horseback received considerable critical acclaim with their previous LP, Invisible Mountain. However, each Horseback record has managed to be its own beast, with different genres, and in some cases, a different lineup. With The Gorgon Tongue, Horseback brings together Jenks Miller’s first solo release Impale Golden Horn with the very-limited-cassette-only Forbidden Planet.

Fans expecting to hear the trippy psychedelic sounds from Invisible Mountain are going to be somewhat disappointed. That album’s bookend, “Hatecloud Dissolving into Nothing,” mixed the sounds of drone with soundscapes that would not be out of place on a Boards of Canada record, which is the only musical reference echoing any aspect of these two EP’s. You won’t find much resemblance of “songs” per se, but rather, “movements.”

The four tracks that make up Impale Golden Horn are some of the most uplifting drone this side of Kranky Records. Fans of artists like Surface of Eceon, Aix Em Klemm, and Labradford will find plenty of ear candy in the tracks noted. There are lightly distorted guitars flowing upon waves and waves of sound, building to the skies only as a skyscraper would. But the decidedly major key compositions coupled with piano, synthesizers, and softly sung vocals would paint a very distinct portrait of the band, one that would not be thought as the predecessor to the Invisible Mountain record.

Horseback Band Group PhotoEach of the four tracks has a unique flavor. “Finale” rolls in with distorted guitars, swelling in and out of the picture, carrying the movement slowly forward at glacial speeds. House of Low Culture fans will greatly enjoy this piece. “The Golden Horn” has distorted guitars as well, but the piano and tremolo’d synth are at the forefront of this composition. The piano eventually fades into the swelling synth and controlled feedback.

“Laughing Celestial Architect” sounds much like a funeral dirge, akin to maybe something of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack” from Kid A. Those distorted guitars now sound like a rich organ or harmonium, and the feedback gives the unique overtone scripture that only those instruments can provide. This is the first track that features any percussion. It’s absolutely fascinating, and one that should be listened to upon first awakening in the early morning twilight. This track has a lot in common with Surface of Eceon’s best moments. “Blood Fountain” closes out the EP with some very pretty delayed guitars, soft vocals, and some swelling arpeggiated synth. If not for the ending controlled chaos, this would be a wonderful song to fall asleep to. And even then, you may be able to. The vocals disappear, and you hear mainly piano, the main guitar melody, and some feedback. The drums arrive in free-time, making you wonder if Damon Che Fitzgerald of Don Caballero decided to step in to play the skins, but it’s buried far enough in the mix that it never gets overwhelming.

“A Veil of Maya (The Lamb Takes the Lion)” starts the second E.P., Forbidden Planet. Decidedly different, you’d wonder if you accidentally had a Boris or SunnO))) record on. The tone is assuredly darker, and if you couldn’t feel it immediately, you’ll notice it right around the 50 second mark, as the black metal growls and noise permeate your eardrums. As it eventually fades into the more soundscape-based “A High Ashen Breeze (Part I),” you can see its relationship with Impale Golden Horn, but definitely the polar opposite mood-wise. As we segue into “A High Ashen Breeze (Part II),” this may begin to wear on you a bit. If you are a black metal and noise fan, I’m sure your interest will be held, but if you’re listening to this all in one sitting, you may start to grow weary with the squalls and screams.

The continuation of these themes are explored in “Alabaster Shithouse” [with less of the soundscape and more of the main guitar melody in the foreground], and “A High Ashen Breeze (Part III).” It’s not until you get to the last track, “Introducing Blind Angels,” that you finally hear some variance. It gives the feeling that you are in limbo with Dante and Virgil after experiencing the evil demons of the world. It’s with the relaxing bit of that passage that the listener may be torn. Would “Introducing Blind Angels” have the same profound impact had you not sat through the previous few tracks? Tough to say, but the sameness assault of the majority of Forbidden Planet after hearing such variety on Impale Golden Horn make this combination of EP’s a peculiar one.

Horseback are one of those bands that will reinvent themselves from album to album, pulling the best elements from each incarnation to move forward. Many fans will appreciate the juxtaposed EPs, but for the most part, perhaps Horseback should’ve reissued the EP’s separately. The fact that Impale and Forbidden Planet are bundled together may have fans yearning to skip one of the EPs and go right to the other. But all in all, this is not a bad introduction to this band if you haven’t jumped on-board yet, and there’s plenty of promise of things to come.

More info at Horseback Official Facebook

Pre-Order at Relapse Records

1. Finale
2. The Golden Horn
3. Laughing Celestial Architect
4. Blood Fountain
5. Veil of Maya (The Lamb Takes the Lion)
6. A High Ashen Breeze (Part 1)
7. A High Ashen Breeze (Part 2)
8. Alabaster Shithouse
9. A High Ashen Breeze (Part 3)
10. Introducing Blind Angels

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