Partly to inflate my word count, but mostly out of self-indulgence, I like to begin my reviews with a paragraph of waffle that’s, on a good day, at least slightly related to the album I’m reviewing. Two months of home-schooling seem to have turned my brain to mush so I’ll skip that part and get straight to Thunder Horse: yet another great band added to Ripple Music’s burgeoning roster.
They’re a four-piece from Texas and Chosen One is the follow-up to their self-titled, self-released debut from the heady days of 2018, when it was possible to drink coffee in a coffee shop. Truth be told, that record passed me by and I’ve not heard of the industrial metal band Pitbull Daycare that provided two of the members either. Listening to an album without any context or prior knowledge can be a fun, if fraught, activity and I’m glad to say that I’ve lucked out on this one – I’ll dispel any tension by telling you now that it’s an excellent album.
I always enjoy critiquing the blurb in press releases and the one that accompanied Chosen One mentions some interesting influences that frankly would not have occurred to me upon listening to the record. There are comparisons drawn to Pink Floyd and Jane’s Addiction, but when I listened to it, the first band that sprung to my mind was Crowbar. Thunder Horse share a similar massive guitar tone and sense of groove, as well as lyrics that showcase a certain distaste for the status quo. To be fair to the good PR folks at Ripple, there’s a bit in the press release that hits the nail on the head: ‘metal played slow and low, with an intensity inspired by icons past and present.’ I can definitely roll with that.
Thunder Horse set their stall out with Let Them Bleed; chunky guitars and a chugging groove underpinning some bile-filled lyrics. It’s slow, seriously heavy and sure to get your head nodding. Among The Dead ploughs a similar furrow but steps things up with an irresistibly heavy chorus that crushes everything in its path. There’s even a guitar solo to enjoy.
It’s genuinely impressive how consistently excellent the song-writing is across the album…
To be honest, a track-by-track breakdown could start to get quite repetitive as the bulk of album is a smorgasbord of pummelling riffs that sometimes approach medium pace, and choruses that manage to be both visceral and melodic at the same time. There are too many strong moments to mention, but some particular highlights for me: the irresistible instrumental break towards the end of Rise Of The Heathens; the start-to-finish awesomeness of Broken Dreams; the tectonic slow-burn of Song For The Ferryman. It’s genuinely impressive how consistently excellent the song-writing is across the album.
Apart from the very short album closer Remembrance (eighty seconds of breezy southern rock that sounds like the intro to a The Allman Brothers track), the only real deviation from slow and heavy is Texas – a stripped back ballad about wanting to leave a life of shallow showbiz parties in California, to go back home to die in Texas. As an accountant from Basingstoke I can personally attest to the emptiness of a gilded life of decadent, superficial glamour, but even if you can’t relate to the message quite as directly as I can, it’s still a great tune that provides some welcome variety.
I’m never quite sure whether to include bonus tracks in my reviews – they often come across as a bit of an after-thought and it can be predictable which version of the release you do and don’t get them on. Anyway, I thought I’d briefly mention the first of the two on my copy (the second is an extended version of Texas which just adds another verse or two) as it’s a pretty sweet cover of Traffic’s Dear Mr. Fantasy.
The original is a slightly sinister psych-pop workout from 1967, but Thunder Horse’s version sounds like your favourite doom band absolutely bulldozing a Bon Jovi power ballad (I think it must be the voice-box guitar effect thing that makes me think of New Jersey’s favourite pint-sized poodle-haired rockstar). I might not have made that sound like a particularly tempting proposition, but it’s surprisingly awesome.
Anyway, as a whole Chosen One is an excellent album from start to finish. There isn’t huge variety on show here, but Thunder Horse provide you with such a quality set of tunes that you won’t care. It’s heavy, intense and groovy all the way through. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc