Here’s a factoid our eagle-eyed archivist doesn’t expect anyone to recall: back in the primordial days of this site, we published a track review of the delightfully entitled “Obstrinxerit,” from a Albuquerque-dwelling sludge duo named Sword Horse. It made an impression on me then--to quote: “‘Obstrinxerit’ maintains a free-flowing ambiance, an irresistible pull into a cave that is too small. In this case, Death doesn’t beckon, so much as leave you with no other option.” Chilling stuff.
Given a certain enamorment with this track, as well as a healthy appreciation for their prior work, I was suitably intrigued by the release of a self-titled EP way back in August of last year. I listened to the damn thing quite frequently, a little sludge-me-up between other releases. Despite an intent to put pen to paper and scratch out a review, I simply...didn’t. And so the apology tour continues. I arise today from an apparent Rip Van Winkle situation to inform you that, unlike yours truly, you really shouldn’t look this gift Sword Horse in the mouth.
When we’re talking “sludgy claustrophobia,” we of course have several high-quality options. There is Primitive Man, sitting at the top of the heap, whose caustic brand of blackened doom vitriol settles into your lungs like mustard gas whilst simultaneously treading across your torso with concrete boots, holding your chest hostage from start to end. As an exceedingly anxious person, this, frankly, can be a bit much for lil’ ol’ me at times, so I often turn instead to HELL or the stellar Body Void for a healthy dose of Brobdingnagian sludge (sans lung collapse). On the frequent occasion that I’m looking for a potent mix of all three, Sword Horse is the best option by far. Right off the bat, it’s clear that this duo doesn’t mess around when it comes to creating that suffocating atmosphere we love/fear--the tone on just the first few seconds of “Integument “ is enough to crush a tank in its hefty embrace. Like unto a constrictor, pulsating hooks writhe and squeeze with a gritty tenacity--9 months later, and somehow these churning and animalistic motifs in distortion remain ensnared in my brain.
As before, Sword Horse’s greatest strengths are A.) vocals and b). composition. In terms of the former, we’re treated to similarly billowing-yet-harsh cries which emanate endlessly from the bituminous blackened void. To call these utterings “howls” is the understatement of the year. In terms of the latter, the three tracks contained within simply do not feel as long as they are--due entirely to a notable ability to maintain interest and intrigue. A slow and steady percussive pattern with the most repetitive of riffs sounds like a recipe for boredom, but the sheer weight of the atmosphere and the anticipation of that next crushing blow--vocal or otherwise--is more than enough to keep the audience engaged. Even “Wither,” which clocks in at nearly 7 minutes, feels like a relative walk in the park. Provided, of course, said park is underwater and you’re trapped in a diving bell. Previously, I had stated--incorrectly--that should Sword Horse put out a longer release, “some additional features will likely be necessary to maintain the high standard of pummeling and constricting music.” After hearing this EP, I’m not so sure if that is, indeed, the case. These three tracks are plenty compelling.
Look, I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but Sword Horse does sludgy doom right. If you’re a fan of the genre--or of constrictor-esque music in the slightest--this self-titled EP comes highly recommended. And, as an aside: Sword Horse has, quite simply, the best logo this slumbering Villager has ever had the good fortune to witness. If that design alone is convincing, I dunno what to tell ye. Just...just listen to this band, okay?
Sword Horse - Sword Horse was released August 2020
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!