Album Review: HORSEWHIP Horsewhip
There are a couple of telling and hilarious lines in the biographical/information write up accompanying the debut from these Florida veterans that let you know that Horsewhip, the band, and the record, is a labour of love. First, “Horsewhip will see release on all digital platforms and 12” orange vinyl limited to 300 copies on September 14th through Financial Ruin, home to various disappointed bands, but several satisfied credit card companies…” Second, “A newer band of older men, Horsewhip reunites some early actors of the 1990s DIY hardcore scene for a now seasoned and less scrawny approach to the purging of stresses… It’s a somewhat familiar sound filtered through twenty-plus subsequent years of American life and a heavy dose of Floridian swamp dread. It’s thick and it’s heavy. Four unshaven men having a go at it.”
I don’t know how many of you remember Reversal of Man or Combatwoundedveteran. They were bands from the circa-Y2K Florida grind scene who were seemingly doing the write, record, tour cycle non-stop for a handful of years. In fact, I recall seeing Reversal of Man on many more occasions than someone who lives a 2400 km drive from Florida should. And a quick glance to my left reveals at least three Combatwoundedveteran albums on my shelf. Horsewhip (also featuring ex-members of Early Grace and Order of Importance) is the new creative outlet for four dudes who paid their dues long ago and remain members of extreme music’s corner of the universe for no other reason than their love of the game.
While their music may have eased on the gas pedal their previous bands were throwing their collective body weight on, it’s not like any of the seven tracks comprising Horsewhip are in any way more accessible. Sure, the pace may have slowed down a smidge in spots, but the grind and powerviolence have been joined by thick and meaty slabs of sludge. Not sludge in the molasses-paced riffing, swamp rock sense, but one that spins a more (sub)urban motif where anger at the system while being part of the system is the palpable challenge.
What Horsewhip does is borrow from the aesthetic of their youth and amalgamate it to the notion of "slowing with age." The result is a powerful, heavy-handed two-ton slam that’s as much collapsing concrete and rebar as it is a wood chipper powered by a six-stroke engine. However, you wouldn’t know it from the opening track, “Aver.” A minor key string slicing paves the way for riffs that seems to go from fast to faster (with brief slowdowns over the rumble strip) by the time the song gets to the end of its 2:42 running time.
Call it a new spin on power violence’s back-and-forth between speed and sloth, but Horsewhip stands out for being more compact and restrained. The rapidity is there. The slovenly rumble is as well. But the shifts between the two in “Dropping Out” and “The Road” aren’t nearly as jarring and drastic. Hence, the songs become tighter in their economy and open to more angular brands of high-speed grind and defibrillator tribal metal with “The Road” posting up with an über-catchy chorus that has little place in music this covered in filth. “Funeral Circus” blasts like a rocket ship straight outta late ‘90s Miami whereas “Fires” rings out like the screams of villagers being burned alive and crushed by the over-sized boots of fictional giants.
Horsewhip is short and to the point. There are no frills, and given the tone of the aforementioned bio, this band doesn't exist for any other reason than its members still love diving head first into the very expensive hobby of playing extreme music. The difference is that those involved here have decades of experience know how, triumph and disappointment in the inspirational well. I hazard to say they’ve seen it “all,” but they’ve seen a lot and have managed to transpose that into a record that is as unhinged and seedy as it is cultivated and mature. And at seven tracks cranked out in 18 minutes, it’s the perfect length to get their point across without being belaboring the issue and overstaying welcomes.