It’s always interesting to see what people who spent their formative years in the hardcore scene return to their musical roots later in life. Will the rage that fuelled their initial efforts still be there? Is it possible to take a more mature approach based around a musical form that encapsulates the fire of youth without losing the ire and energy over time?
The members of Horsewhip certainly seem to have found a way to. Their origins traceable back two decades to DIYHC luminaries such as Reversal of Man, Sutek Conspiracy and Early Grace (to name but a few), the four piece have taken the frantic hardcore of their younger years and filtered it through a heavier, perhaps even more sombre approach with powerful results on this, their second album. In many ways this is a more concentrated and more – gulp -adult form of rage articulated across these 11 short (only three go over three minutes) tracks, musically heavier but somehow avoiding falling into the metallic trap.
Impressively throughout Laid To Waste Horsewhip manage to hint at their past lives without seeming nostalgic. It’s in the brief, flashes of ringing guitar octave that show up in Feast or Holy Lies, the sheer off the rails rage of Inertia Waits. The guitars are tuned lower perhaps, the vocals hoarser, but Horsewhip carry their past into the present day admirably, a continuation rather than a re-visitation.
This is perhaps a more spacious and ragged form of hardcore, chaotic in a controlled sense but unafraid to allow bursts of atmosphere through the clangour. Ruin breaks up the violence early on, a short icy guitar instrumental that serves as a prelude to the absolute bludgeon of Pray For The Dead, a hard charging d-beat inspired rager. The calm before the storm effect works nicely, but its how the ambience carries through for a brief second in the guitar line in the middle of the sequence revealing the gravitas at work.
a more spacious and ragged form of hardcore, chaotic in a controlled sense but unafraid to allow bursts of atmosphere through the clangour…
Charnel House is perhaps the highlight here, the point where the various strands all combine perfectly; the melancholic chording, the abrasive power, the tangible sense of catharsis. The band actually work better when focussing on their more rhythmic side than the straight ahead faster moments it has to be said, and this is a testament to that.
There is one major fault with Laid To Rest, and it lies not in anything the band themselves have done. It’s the production. Too echoey and boomy, it tends to bury the intricacies of the music, the drums in particular being a little hard to fathom during some of the more chaotic moments. It does, unfortunately, serve to make the album a little disjointed sounding and you wish it had been a bit rawer and that the reverb had been dialled down.
That aside though, Laid To Rest is a fine record, music by, and I suspect for, ageing hardcore kids (that’ll be me) and wider fans of explosive heavy music alike. A step up from the already powerful debut, and hopefully an assault they can develop even further for years to come.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes