And so, on the 246th day of this project, we descend upon the final HORSE the Band appearance: their 2005 breakout hit, The Mechanical Hand. Since this is the most important band of our generation, merely our Beatles, let’s recap, shall we?
In order of release date:
R. Borlax (2003): the album notable for the band’s most famous, nay, infamous song, “Cutsman”. I wrote about the Kangarooster and “Bunnies.” Hard to believe it’s the album that directly precedes The Mechanical Hand. In other words, you’re not missing out with the exception of the tune that changed everything for the band.
A Natural Death (2007): the album that Nathan “The General” Winneke loathes for its straightforward metal overtones. I wrote a short-ish essay about my disdain for the fact that it, and the album that succeeds it, were both poorly received by an otherwise hungry audience. My personal disappointment aside, A Natural Death is, by all accounts, a mammoth excursion at 16 tracks. It explores the despair of LIF, questioning the meaning of life and shitting on your worldview at the same time. Dig deeper.
Desperate Living (2009): the group’s final album, because let’s face it, they’re never going to do another one, no matter how many half-day long DVDs they release or tours on which they embark through Eastern Europe and Scandinavia and the Arctic Circle and anywhere that isn’t THESE UNITED STATES. It’s a loud record that would have embarrassed anything else from that year but won’t get noticed because of its relative obscurity and the fact that the bourgeois will be distracted by Erik Engstrom’s Jon Heder impression. Die.
Betwixt R. Borlax and A Natural Death, HORSE released an album called The Mechanical Hand, which of their whole catalogue is the most true to their signature, 8-bit inspired sound. If you call it Nintendocore, we will fight.
The album opens with a slew of HORSE cornerstones on the A-side: “Birdo,” “A Million Exploding Suns,” “The House of Boo” – and that’s just in the first 4 tracks. Between Lord Gold’s keyboards, Dash’s intricate bass work, screaming guitars and drums, HORSE’s signature sound is a tightly knit onslaught.
At track three, the last 45 seconds of “Manateen” are a clear representation of what the band is all about sonically: turning the hardcore/metalcore genres on their head, injecting some chiptunes pulled straight from the annals of the waning 80s.
“Heroes Die” at track 5 is a monument to feedback-riddled instrumental destruction, and only topped by “Soaring Quails,” the group’s antithetical page one rewrite of every great and wonderful patriotic song.
But one of the shining HORSE moments is found at track 9: “Taken by Vultures.” Behold the mood of the record – relentless terror. Here, The General imagines the horrifying nature of being snatched by arguably the Avian nation’s Lohan Cyrus Bynes: brash disregard for every other thing but itself. I’m thankful “Taken” is not based on true events.
The Mechanical Hand closes with two primo songs: the pornographic “Lord Gold Throneroom” (for which the band released an Academy level video) and “The Black Hole.” The latter of which is, in some Nostradamic way, a gesture to the future of the band’s sound on A Natural Death.
So, so many animal metaphors, based in both fact and science fiction, throughout The Mechanical Hand make for a teeming, gleeful read – like a word nerd watching a porno about the future subjunctive. Praise be.
HORSE is a band ahead of its time playing music from before its time. I gnash and weep regularly for their return.
From The Mechanical Hand, this is “Birdo” –
Standout tracks: Hard to fault the first 5 or so tracks, as well as “Taken by Vultures,” “Lord Gold Throneroom” and “The Black Hole”
Weakest track: “Sand”