Title: Spotted Horse
Label: Brutal Panda Records
Release Date: 17 May 2019
Country: United States
Format reviewed: MP3 320kb
Atmospheric black metal is almost always synonymous with melody, with lush transitions and folksy elements. Of course, there are other types of atmospheric metal, the darker kind, bands like Hissing, Akhlys and Fuoco Fatuo being some of my favourite examples. But no one can deny that in most cases when you hear atmospheric, the mind wanders to things like Panopticon, Wolves in the Throne Room or Agalloch. But what happens when you combine both categories, with a dash of post-black and mathcore? Well, GLASSING happens.
The group is a three piece that hails from Austin, Texas. They released their debut in 2017 and “Spotted Horse” is their sophomore effort. 10 tracks, 43 minutes of especially engaging music. The description I gave before is a bit shallow, because the sound is not that easy to pin down. It all starts with “When you stare”, the longest song on the record. For thirty seconds it leaves you expecting, but without knowing exactly what. Clear notes ring in the distance, before dissonance takes over, accompanied by a very prominent snare drum and cymbal crashes. One minute later the shrieking screams appear, more akin to hardcore than metal. The opener presents you with the elements that the band toys around and after that you should start to expect the unexpected and by that I don’t mean things like changing from blast-beats to tango, but rather you should ask yourself how are they going to combine those elements.
The tracks don’t follow the classic verse-chorus structure, not even the short ones. You never know when it’s going to shift from melodic guitar lines to dissonant ones, maybe they’ll combine them or just go full ambient. Speaking of which, this paradoxical ‘melodic dissonance’ is what perplexed me all throughout my first listen. On paper it shouldn’t work, but GLASSING found a way to breathe life into this uncanny hybrid, while still giving it this beautiful aesthetic. Also, out of the shorter songs, not all are full on assaults. “Coven” explores beautiful dreamscapes, while “Lobe” sets out to pulverise with a brief burst of energy, so even here you are left to wonder what’s going to come next. In spite of all this, the sound is rather minimalist. It’s not exceedingly layered, but intricate drum patterns appear all throughout the album, with sudden time signature and style shifts, compensating for the said minimalism.
To better understand the atmosphere of the album I’ll try to be visual. Whenever I listen to it, it brings images from a horror short story I enjoy very much, “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” by M. R. James. There is a bleak description of a beach, with wooden groynes that stop only when swallowed by the roaring waves. In this description, the light is dim, the sky blocked by a ceiling of grey, burdened clouds. It rains with small, cold drop. You just sit on the sand and watch the water. It’s, in some peculiar way, calming, moments found in songs like “Follow Through” or “A Good Death”, but when you realise that you are staring at something so huge, something that could hold so many undiscovered, terrifying secrets, you panic, a feeling perfectly described by the shorter, more intense songs. But in the end, you accept that there are things you can not control and your meditation concludes with “The Wound is Where the Light Enters”.
If I do have to complain about something, it would be the length of the album. I, for one, would have liked the album to be longer, seeing that it’s a rather accessible record, with songs that aren’t too lengthy to loose their replay value. I would like to see the group expand on the ideas and style they developed on “Spotted Horse” because they look nothing short of promising.
All in all, GLASSING have made a record that made me sit on the edge of my seat, albeit short. This record is not for those who seek a blast-beat fest or a monstrous sound, as there is nothing of that sort here. Even so, its original sound and engrossing atmosphere make up for a satisfying, kind of laid back, listening experience. 8.5/10 Metal Gentleman
8.5/10 : To Greatness and Glory!
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