I first heard of Funeral Horse last year through an intriguing biography and the novelty of a retro tape format. The Doom Punk trio had been together about five minutes and yet there was much promise to be found in their Savage Audio Demon EP if they could just figure out which of the myriad of styles they wanted to refine. Fast forward a year and a limited edition 12″ vinyl album shows up on my doorstep unprompted.
Do you really think that bribing me with such treats would tempt me back for another listen Funeral Horse? You’re damn right it would.
The Texan noise merchants now find themselves on Artificial Head Records which has become home to several underrated artists such as Art Institute and The Escatones, they have got themselves back in the rehearsal room and focused their scattergun influences into the more coherent collection of tunes that is Sinister Rites Of The Master.
One thing Funeral Horse excel at is creating kick ass song names. Take for example the none more doom title of opening salvo Until The Last Nation Falls; an image provoking statement that could raise a legion of clawed hands to the sky…
And yet after the atmospheric slow, weighty Doom opening chords, the track manifests itself into the proto metal, crust punk that dominated Savage Audio Demon. It is almost like they are just deliberately fucking with you and it is delicious. It rocks along with a lo-fi 70’s groove, a Sabbath inspired chug, but cranked up like Ozzy, Ward, Iommi and Butler are having a bar fight with Johnny, DeeDee, Tommy and Joey as fuzzy, snotty Punk attitude collides with Metal precision, twisting your melon around music that seems like it has fallen through a wormhole and arrived wiping the gob off it’s chin and flashing the peace sign.
As I hinted at, the first EP was a little all over the place style wise, but here front man/guitarist Paul Bearer, bassist Jason Andy Argonauts and drummer Chris Larmour have a clear defined vision of where they want to take you and it is not all back four decades as Amputate The Hand ignites with a buzzsaw rhythm that recalls the Sub Pop snarl and bludgeon of Bleach era Nirvana. Not content with creating an angry track in the pop rock genre, they drop in a stop start Doom epic breakdown at the end which focuses less on the pogoing and more on the moody head bang more associated with big men with beards who hate the sun.
Elsewhere Communist Blues is a sinister creeping guitar and shuffling drum workout that features distorted vocals and lashings of irony. For a fleeting moment it reminded me of Smack era Ministry but with a big chorus that would probably be a huge hit if not buried under layers of over driven fuzz.
Executioner Of Kings sees the drummer get wicked before erupting into a lurching track that is more Doom than Punk but at the same time never content to sit in one groove for too long; neither is I Hear The Devils Calling Me, just when you thought you had this Punk/Doom hybrid down, they thrown in a music interlude that is pure 70s Soul.
The closing pairing of Stoned & Furious and their take on the Rush classic Working Man are poles apart in terms of style – the first is the completely over the top to the max; buzzing Punk meets NWOBHM, this is a stylistic maelstrom that is not a million miles way from the precision smart bomb that was Iron Maiden’s eponymous album with blistering solos and heads down thundering music and the latter is a laid back red neck blue collar paean that drips with the spirit off a white man’s take on The Blues; Working Man stomps along with a swagger that says “this is what it is and if you don’t like it, fuck off”.
And that is very much what Sinister Rites Of The Master leaves you with. Funeral Horse are going to be a band you get or you don’t really. If you like something a little out of the box, to the left of field then Funeral Horse could well float your boat.
If you like the epic crash of Doom yet also enjoy the frenetic snotty attitude of Punk you will find both smashed together on this album, the Texan trio have done this and rummaged around in the broken pieces and put it back in an almost Dadaist style and make no apology for it.
Their first EP suffered from a lack of clear direction, the album whilst it may sound unhinged is actually put together very well and the deliberate lo-fi fuzz of the whole thing lends a weight and an authenticity to it that is utterly charming.
It’s not perfect, I’m not even sure it’s meant to be, but this is a band that still only formed last year and right now they are having fun with it and I would rather listen to a record like that than someone plodding through the motions.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden