For me, HORSE the Band is just about the most misunderstood band in all of heavy/metal/whatever-core music, and that the best example of this is their 2007 release A Natural Death.
Is it that they were ahead of their time – or behind it?
Is it that they couldn’t focus in on one audience, or even figure out what that audience is (or, further, was)?
Is it that the existential introspections of one Nathan ‘The General’ Winneke turn off the average listener just looking for something “brutal” to “melt their face?”
Any and all and, I don’t know, maybe none of these, are factors that either feebly explain away or get right to the heart of why HORSE remains a band mired in the gray area of heavy music.
Which is the exact reason to appreciate them.
In an interview with MTV, The General says A Natural Death is about:
“(the) futility and arrogance of creation and destruction, the overwhelming scale of space and time, and the brutal majesty of nature, the horror of birth and the beauty of death. Everyone who will ever live will die a natural death, and will soon after be forgotten for eternity. Hopefully this album will serve as a warning to the human race to stop taking itself so seriously, as we have seen the dire consequences of its actions in the future. You are nothing.”
One could write that off as the ramblings of the oft-inebriated lead vocalist for HORSE. That’s the easy argument. The reality is, despite the melodramatic nature of his comments, there is significant truth in his statement. Many will ignore it if only for the fact that they wish to continue about their lives in ignorant bliss.
Those that choose to look further into what Winneke says on the album will feel the crush of his shrug-off ineffectuality. Such is, in my opinion, the attitude toward HORSE.
It drives me crazy that a music community starved for originality has overlooked the group in a most ridiculous “beggars becoming choosers who are also purported learned Internet scholars and theists and Bokonists” situation.
Maybe I’m just angry that HORSE aren’t as popular as they should be, and will be better remembered for the hyperbolic genre-pigeonholing absurdity/monstrosity that is “NINTENDOCORE” or the breakdown on “Cutsman” or the recurring inside “Kangarooster” joke than they will be for the gem that is A Natural Death.
I don’t know how to spell it out any better than that. Watch EARTH Tour and have your whole worldview crumpled in 10 hours.
The record charges out of the gate with “Hyperborea,” but largely mellows out thereafter.
Where A Natural Death is at its best is on instrumentally-minded (though backed by short poems or sampling) tracks like “The Beach,” “Lif” (read as: ‘life’), “Broken Trail” or “Crickets,” which is true #art. Or “Crow Town” which turns out to be one of their most impressive shows of musicianship, not relying on two-step sections or gimmicks.
Or even “Rotting Horse,” which may be the most reflective song on any of their albums. For being an instrumental, it speaks volumes about the band’s work and feels more like a deathblow than “just” the 14th song on an album of 16 tracks.
Most salient of their album’s sense of impending doom is “I Think We Are Both Suffering From The Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis” which sees the band revisiting their electronic, 8-bit roots in a big way. On the song, Winneke writes:
I believe we are both
all these machines that dream
make me want to scream
there’s no bears or wild things
the future’s not what it seems
The only thing that I’d like to see from the band is some kind of alternative to the dark. If we are to accept hopelessness as reality, what can we replace it with? Surely acceptance and rolling over is not the answer.
But that’s the beauty of HORSE: the end result is not to answer anything. It’s asking the questions.
From their bleakest release A Natural Death, this is HORSE the Band’s “Murder” –
Standout tracks: “Face of Bear” and “I Think We Are Both Suffering From The Same Crushing Metaphysical Crisis”
Weakest track: “The Red Tornado” but only because it’s more befitting of Desperate Living or even The Mechanical Hand. The rest of the album is too dark to have something this light and “upbeat.”
RIYL: The MegaMan theme, as performed on YouTube in a shitty metal cover by a 14 year old guitarist who lives in SoCal. If you are this person, go away. If you call it Nintendocore, go away.