Listening to this reminded me of The Foul Year Of Our Lord by Charger. I got thinking about UK sludge and all those under-appreciated bands like Charger, Gruel, or Lazarus Blackstar which merged a wealth of different styles such as hardcore, crust, grind, and early industrial while still managing to be very much sludge. They didn’t sound like they were just trying to replicate their American forebears. They were innovative and unique, and they usually got passed over for generic sludge boogie or something hip and overrated.
A Horse Called War is from East Anglia, England. They arrived in 2005 playing well-executed sludge-core that was at times a little repetitive and predictable but was filled with memorable riffs and ideas. They showed a lot of promise, then they split in 2010. Then they returned and now they’ve released this new EP. It seems like they’ve spent their time away building upon their sound and expanding it. They’ve chosen carefully what to incorporate from the obvious US and UK sludge originators as well as drawing inspiration from further afield. While there’s the standard US EyeHateGod and Noothgrush template and the UK Iron Monkey and Charger influence, there’s recognizable elements from the likes of Sourvein, Today Is The Day, and Warhorse, whether its intentional or not.
This is punky aggressive sludge with a raw but massive production full of great riffs and songs that never let up. What’s special about this EP is that it has that same distinctive spirit of so much older UK sludge that drew from a wide range of influence and pushed the boundaries but didn’t deviate too much from the main vehicle of huge riffs and hardcore heft. These five tracks are full of character and ideas, but this never takes the focus away from the songs. The band has really worked on songwriting and structure, and Good For Glue (And Nothing Else) is a much more dynamic listen than the Horse’s earlier output. Tempos fluctuate and shift, and songs switch from punk aggro, to Iommian heft, to industrial repetition, all the while incorporating sounds that span the melodic and rhythmic to the arrhythmic and atonal.
This is punky aggressive sludge with a raw but massive production full of great riffs and songs that never let up…
The groove is often stripped out to emphasize and expand the sheer weight of sound, and the mostly domineering guitar backs off entirely a couple of times to let the over-saturated blocked-nose bass rattle away with the drums. Unlike with some of the more avantgarde sludge bands right now, the relatively progressive elements never get in the way. A Horse Called War knows why we’re all here, and this EP has some frankly awesome heavy riffs. Go and listen to the track Don Frye. If that opening riff doesn’t give you what Mortician call the Dog Face – when you grimace like Judge Dredd and give it the slow bang – you must be dead inside.
The vocals are raging, pained and brutal, but they’re no longer confined to one mode of expression as they take in different styles: caustic hardcore yelling, gang chants, spoken word, TITD Steve Austin yelps, and an effected wail that calls to mind Sourvein on their split with Graves At Sea. The drums sound live and alive with a roughness and control to the playing that keeps intensity to a maximum, especially when those furious skull-battering fills smash through the mix. Crushing slows into punk assaults then into grooving heft, and it’s all so natural because of the skillful drumming. There’s also lots of little subtle and quirky moments where cymbals hang on the riff or the toms exploit the offbeat.
Unfortunately, you don’t tend to get lyrics with promo material, but the wry song titles and amusing sample on the final track suggests a familiar British sludge sense of humor. The artwork is very much EHG and Noothgrush which leaves me feeling that it would be cool if they did something different, especially because it seems like a misrepresentation of what they’re doing sonically – but what do I know? I hope that this release gets the attention that it deserves because it’s high time that bands like this got picked up and appreciated when they’re still around. This is far from the usual weed metal eye roll, this is contemporary UK sludge following in the same tradition as so many under-rated UK bands that never got their due.
Scribed by: Josuph Price