When I first saw reference to A Pale Horse Named Death I was immediately interested. Upon hearing that the project was the baby of Sal Abruscato and other luminaries of Type O Negative, Life of Agony and general all-round New York famousness my eagerness to get hold of the first album, And Hell Will Follow Me, hit new heights. Once I got hold of the debut, I realised that the aesthetic was spot on – the artwork, the production, the song titles… all of these are what you expect from a band called A Pale Horse Named Death. Where it fell down very slightly was in the quality of song writing.
Since hearing the debut I’ve seen the band live and they were pretty impressive, but when it comes to the recorded output, I’ve remained interested but not inspired – I keep buying it, and I keep having the same reaction. When talking about A Pale Horse’s sound it’s a foregone conclusion that I’m going to reference certain bands – seriously, it’s impossible not to. Their core sound has stayed very true to the template first laid down in 2011, so you’ll get no apologies from me for mentioning them again here.
Infernum In Terra is A Pale Horse’s fourth album and comes hot on the heels (by modern standards) of 2019’s When The World Comes Undone. Incidentally, has any album title ever been so prophetic?! The album was released on 24th September via Long Branch Records.
First track proper, Believe In Something, is very reminiscent of Alice In Chains. The vocals aren’t dissimilar (although without the stand-out harmonies), but it’s the guitar work that is oh so Cantrell in nature. As a side note; just how much of an influence have AIC become over the last few years? Think back to all of those big bands of the 90s and ask yourself which of them has had the biggest audible impact on the sound of bands in the 2020s?…
Sal’s vocals are mostly clean, with the occasional guttural grunt for good measure. They’re really effectively double-tracked as well for a good portion of the album. This isn’t a new trick, but it’s a classic technique which yields some really impressive results on the likes of Slave To The Master. There is a definite whiff of Life Of Agony as well when it comes to the vocals. Rather than the melodies echoing LOA, it’s the vocal phrasing that is at times similar to Mina Caputo (if you missed the transition of Keith to Mina then get googling – more power to her!).
If you’ve enjoyed previous A Pale Horse… albums, then approach this new record in the same spirit and it will serve you well…
Cast Out From The Sky is the standout track here. It would happily have sat on any Type O Negative album, or even on Life Of Agony’s second album, Ugly, for that matter. Shards Of Glass is of a similar quality, with a really strong melody and a pace that is just right for effective pint-in-hand slow headbanging.
From here on in, the challenge we have is that the songs show real lack of variety. If you really enjoy the mid-paced, doomy, melodic thing, then maybe this will be your album of the year. I must admit that I like it more than I would recommend it (does that make sense?!). I’m a huge fan of Sal’s past work and the whole aesthetic of A Pale Horse… just works for me, but I would be hard pushed to say that this is a great album, because it lacks that spark of inspiration.
Reflections Of The Dead kind of sums up the whole album really nicely. It contains very slightly Beatle-esque melodies, and that combined with the top-quality lead guitar work puts it at a level that really sends the album towards a conclusion on a high note. Final track, Souls In The Abyss is a three-minute instrumental coda. It serves a purpose, sort of. But if I’m honest, after the first couple of listens I found myself pressing ‘stop’ after Reflection Of The Dead and found that to be a more satisfying close.
Does this sound like a negative review?… it’s not intended to be. I’m a fan of the band and I continue to enjoy their albums. If you’re a fan of any of the other acts I’ve mentioned, then the chances are you will enjoy Infernum In Terra. I’m going to liken it to a recent trip I took to the cinema. I went to see the new Candyman sequel, and thoroughly expected it to be an enthusiastic gallop through many of the horror film clichés that I’ve enjoyed in the past. It did exactly what I expected it to do; nothing more, nothing less. If you’ve enjoyed previous A Pale Horse… albums, then approach this new record in the same spirit and it will serve you well.
Scribed by: David J McLaren