If Horseback’s records seem heavy – as in, heavier even than most of their droning metal contemporaries – there is a reason for that. Jenks Miller – the sole member of Horseback, finds inspiration from the heaviest subject matter of them all – the apocalypse. And on Half Blood, the band’s fourth full-length and first new release for Relapse, Miller explains that “the apocalyptic violence is a metaphor for the change achieved by new knowledge. It is the raw invigoration of the Self.”
“The raw invigoration of the Self” might also be a fair jumping off point to discuss the grim, swirling cacophony that Jenks Miller has almost single-handedly created (with the occasional help of a studio drummer) on Horseback’s studio recordings since the release of the debut album Impale Golden Horn on Burly Time in 2007, later to be reissued by Relapse.
Shaking, buzzing, and constantly moving, Horseback’s music tends to exist in its own strange world, where the distorted swagger of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse sits at a table next to the haunted dronescapes of Sunn O))). As Pitchfork Media describes it, their sound encompasses “Metal ugliness and heartland beauty, post-rock at its most spartan and hard rock at its most out-there.”
Horseback’s live appearances, although rare, have also grown to be highly acclaimed; an enormous, full-band embodiment of the singular sequestered Horseback sound from the recordings. Horseback has performed at Utech Records Music Festival, Boomslang Festival, and Hopscotch Music Festival 2011 and has done shows with acts as diverse as The Atlas Moth, Hull, and Noveller.
Horseback’s prior releases include 2009’s epic The Invisible Mountain, released on Utech Records and later reissued via Relapse Records, and 2010’s cassette-only Forbidden Planet album released through Brave Mysteries, which was also rereleased by Relapse on The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Gorden Horn/Forbidden Planet compilation. Additionally, Horseback has released splits with artists such as Pyramids, Locrian, and Voltigeurs.
Half Blood, released in late spring 2012, marks something of a critical breakthrough for Horseback, an album that NPR calls “a celebration of light through darkness” and is bringing the band’s slithering howl to its largest audience yet.
Metal Hammer writes that “With Half Blood, the band has taken their formula of looping hipgnosis, doomed-out drone and scathing black metal vocals and clarified the delivery.” It is evident that, even if some of some elements of Horseback’s sound have been clarified, there is still much mystery lurking in the deep, hazy Americana that their albums envelope. Horseback is the rare band whose music becomes a journey in and of itself; their albums are living things, growing and shifting with each listen. And at the pace at which Miller is working, with just four albums, he has already developed a powerful identity for himself and has secured a crushing, immaculate legacy.