Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Horse Latitudes - Awakening (2012)

Outside of the realm of the "same old doom metal," you will find Finnish three piece Horse Latitudes. They have thrown away the rule book, as it were, and ventured off into new territory. Comprised of two bass guitars and drums, with sparse vocal passages, they are taking doom to a much deeper place... literally. On their new album, "Awakening," they traverse the plains of doom, pass through the forests of drone, and do so without a six string in sight. Now that is some good "out of the box" thinking.

It seems only fitting that the opening track, "Preparation," is exactly that. It is a welcoming to a style of music that may seem foreign to you. Immediately touching on the low register, you are greeted by a rumbling harmony of bass guitars, with a consistent drum beat. It isn't until the following track, "Dissolution," begins that you get the full spectrum of sound. The slow, deliberately bludgeoning bass passages don't introduce a whole lot of lateral movement, if any at all. The constant vibration of cymbals is like a haze over the music. The vocals aren't the main focus, but merely another layer in a very shallow mix. The problem lies in the track length, with this one clocking in at over seven minutes of the same riff, the same structure, the same unchanging pattern. It struggles to get from point A to point B, often sounding lopsided and dragging.

The opening pounding of the drums on "Profane Awakening" isn't an explosion waiting to happen, but rather a bomb that remains dormant. Before long, you are thrust back into a very similar wave of low end shaking. The highlight here comes in the form of the vocals, rising above the mix in a style that Peter Steele may have appreciated. But even his dynamic choice of singing style can't inject any true life into the instrumental, with an occasional fill cutting across the channels. Even as things start to change and evolve, they rarely get to little more than a simmer. There is little difference from one movement to the next, even as "Decline Of The Ages" takes on a more traditional doom feel. To their credit, they do manage to blur the lines between bass and guitar here, almost making you forget that there isn't a "guitarist" involved. The density of the bass lines, and the level of distortion echoes that of a drop tuned guitar. The moaning and wailing vocals are certainly a mood setter, though the mood than portray may not be immediately clear. Again, a ten to twelve second fading bass note is all that leads you out.

The nearly thirteen minute epic, titled "Into The Deep" is an exercise in song writing, though not in a way that you would want to copy. Contained in this massive track are very few variations on the previous tracks, with the same repetitive chugging taking the place of any actual new material. Reminiscent of the most recent album by The Howling Void, this is really a two minute piece, stretched to the breaking point. Again, the vocals give you something to point to on the positive end, conveying true emotion and depth. After the drone novel that you just heard, the thankfully short, in a manner of speaking, "Along The Circles" signals that the end is in sight. And while this track does boast some of the more creative drumming, at least in the early stages, it does little to salvage the album as a whole. It takes until the last minute of the last track for you to convince yourself these people are still alive.

It is becoming commonplace for bands to buck the trends, and try to step out on their own, doing something unlike their peers. For Horse Latitudes, eliminating the guitar from their doom soaked work seemed like an interesting concept. But in practice, it leaves so little room for creativity and subtlety. Lost in the quaking and crunching of dueling bass lines is the need for versatility. Sure, there are moments where you'll think that things are starting to come to life. But when you take six tracks, stretch them over 46 minutes without any change of pace or power, "Awakening" is destined to put you to sleep.


Bandcamp - http://horselatitudes.bandcamp.com/
Myspace - http://www.myspace.com/horselatitudesmetal

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