One pleasure of being an album reviewer lies in the fact that there’s always, always something that transcends what you would normally expect from a genre, band or release, giving up something that takes your breath away, highlighting the fact that you should go into every experience with open eyes and an open mind. Sure enough, there will be a steady display of average albums and even the occasional disappointment. However, when you go into a record completely open and ready for anything, occasionally the result can be mind-blowing and even rarer the effect can be so lusciously gorgeous that it redefines just what it takes to release music in a modern world. Come 2013 and we welcome back some old flavors, some old traits back to a time where music was music, there was little in the way of studio tinkers, auto tune or frills that are so unnecessary they really hamper just what reception an album could have had. With all this in mind it’s my pleasure to listen albums from a wide variety of bands and genres sharing my opinions and in turn the music behind them. Trvth’s sophomore release is no different; Black Horse Plague is an album that harkens back to the days of 70s progressive adding various influences to create an amazingly vibrant record.
Black Horse Plague transitions between the smooth compositions of progressive music but adds elements from funeral doom, ambient, black metal and blues without forgetting just what makes this album such a pleasure to listen to. The music is complex, but not at all hard to listen to. This opus of a record stretches the boundaries of the genre, providing a depth unlike albums that would focus on intense story lines and dare it be said instrumental wankery. Instead, Black Horse Plague avoids the usual stigmas associated with the genre and this one man act displays a sense of song writing ability that most would maim or kill for. In comparison to Trvth’s previous release, Black Horse Plague is a modern take contrasting with Alpha (2012) but in the best possible way. For the most part the album’s highlight is found in the instrumentation; sole member and multi-instrumentalist, Michael Smith is honestly a master behind an instrument. From the tight and tempo varying drum work; to the guitar leads that weave and shift behind the chord structures, this is one album that makes the most of its integral parts providing an excellent yet highly fluid backbone for this interesting record. However, the album shines when it’s only a matter of one or two layers. The minimalist nature of tracks allows for the atmospheric mood that hangs over tracks to develop and build the songs into something so much more.
For some, the album’s sheer length may just be an issue, but really it’s needed. It allows each and every track to achieve what it sets out to do exploring new sounds and occasionally experimenting in a way like few others. At one hundred minutes, Black Horse Plague isn’t the easiest album to get through, chances are if you’re not into the genre and know roughly, what would be coming you may not get through the album in one sitting. That’s far away from the fact that this album is indeed worth it. There’s no use in cramping material that needs a minimum of ten minutes into a three minute track. It becomes forced and the lengthy track times make perfect sense on a release likeBlack Horse Plague. Compositions switch from the smooth progressive masterpieces to aggressive, angry black metal shrieks and depressive doom passages. This is where the experimentation takes hold of the listeners’ senses, provoking the brain and captivating the listener. Music like this wasn’t made for the casual listen; it takes time to process each melody, each lick and to understand why this masterful musician puts features where he does.
Despite how well this sophomore album comes together, there are a couple of features that mar this otherwise perfect record. The vocals are rather raw and relatively untrained; it’s unfortunate that with an album pulled off like this that the vocal aspect just doesn’t fall into place. It’s without a doubt that those shrieks and growls are pulled off with finesse, but it’s the albums cleans that fall short of making that grand impression. Again, the lyricism and vocal work of Smith can and do hold their own. Spoken work, samples, growls, shrieks and clean croons, the album has them all. It’s just another feature of the record that promotes its overall quality. The flaw is nothing major, but is something to look into for this talented musician. In terms of context, Smith’s lyricism is deep, a host of ideals come to play ranging from topic to topic giving life to this varying display of virtuosity.
Overall, Trvth’s 2013 record is far away from the pretentious thoughts some may be thinking but Black Horse Plague is a must listen album of the year. For fans of atmospheric progressive funeral doom crossover metal that brings back the nostalgia of 70s style progressive. Aided by a semi yet modest clear production, Black Horse Plague wraps around the listener’s senses, enveloping what just makes this such a majestic magnum opus. It’s surprising that with music like this, that Smith makes it free, with a firm belief in free art. Arguments either for or against are irrelevant but for those interested in this style of music, it’s something to be thankful for. If you want something honest, enjoyable but without conforming to a simplicity that’s normally found in similar acts, this is the way to go. It may take a couple of sessions to fully understand this monolithic record, but once in the right mindset, the pieces fit together perfectly.
Genre: Progressive metal
Release Date: April 10th, 2013
Record Label: Independent
1. The Dent in the Pan
3. Red Sky in the Morning
5. What’s Left But My Promise
7. Assessment Denunciation and Eradication