Reviewed: June 2020
Released: 2020, Independent
Reviewer: Jack Merry
Chicago, Illinois has been a breeding ground for sludgy doom metal in recent years with the emergence of bands such as The Atlas Moth, Bongripper, Indian and Ledge, yet there’s another lesser-known yet equally deserving name who have been incredibly consistent since their formation in 2012: Pale Horseman.
Returning in July 2020 with their fifth album For Dust Thou Art, Pale Horseman bring forward another almighty slab of sludge metal for the masses. The band’s previous work is excellent, especially 2017’s The Fourth Seal and 2014’s Mourn the Black Lotus, and For Dust… is absolutely no exception. It continues the band’s streak of mixing hellish apocalyptic visions and tales of grief and despair with thundering planet-sized riffs, and it pays off here really well.
Pale Horseman borrow from the school of Black Sabbath and prove that you do not need to be fast to be heavy. Master of Reality and Dehumanizer are, to this day, two of the heaviest albums ever recorded, and it’s because the slow mountainous riffs hammer the songs home. The pounding drums from Jason Schryver drives each song forward at such a pace that will force your neck to bend; and that’s before the mammoth riffs from both Eric Ondo and Andre Almaraz kick in, who also share vocals. As the album progresses there are hints of Mastodon and Neurosis, with sprawling and intricate passages intertwined with sludgy guitar parts along with the shared vocals that provide a welcome touch of contrast.
Opener ‘Tundra’ is a real tour-de-force and a showcase of what the band are truly capable of after years of experience, while ‘Scourge’ is a monster that crawls along; the bass provided by Rich Cygan rumbling just where it should as it backs up the tremendous riffs spewed out from the very depths of Hell itself. A melodic vocal passage erupts towards the middle of the track, and a gorgeous solo dripping in despair and sadness soon follows to create a twisted kind of beauty.
‘Archangel’ is a firm favourite that I’ll have on repeat for a while, while the quiet introduction of ‘Disenchanter’ provides a slight respite from the noise before it begins again. The entire record is rich with melodies and exciting guitar work, and there are no bad songs here. ‘Cydonia’ is an excellent closer and at nearly eight minutes, it’s also the longest track on the album. It’s a beautiful, volcanic, thunderous noise and any fan of doom and sludge metal would do well not to miss this one.
Every track on For Dust Thou Art crosses the six minute mark except for ‘Tundra’, and Pale Horseman don’t waste a second. Every note, every word, every beat of the drums, every thud is here for a reason and are all perfectly executed. A key component in sludge metal is repetition, and it forces each riff to be bludgeoned into your skull over long periods of time as opposed to the short and sharp blasts from thrash metal. Pale Horseman use this to their advantage over the length of the album and they nail it. No song here is too long; in fact it left me craving for more.
For Dust Thou Art sounds incredible, as has been consistent with each release. The guitars have the right amount of crunch and darkness, while the drums and bass wallop the listener into submission with thunderous passages. Vocally, it’s mixed really well and both singers can be heard clearly and easily identified.
While Pale Horseman are a relatively young band, the members contained within have been in bands for more than twenty years. This experience guarantees that For Dust Thou Art is an essential listen if you need a heavy dose of sludgy doom metal dripping in melancholia, brutality, despair and beauty to help you through these difficult times.
PALE HORSEMAN are:
Rich Cygan – Bass
Jason Schryver – Drums
Eric Ondo – Guitars, Vocals
Andre Almaraz – Guitars, Vocals
For Dust Thou Art is released on July 31st 2020.