Locrian/ Horseback's New Dominions
(Utech Records)by Grayson Currin
Collaborations can be tough: Oftentimes for bands, opening up a hermetic artistic space to include someone new is simply a pleasurable break from ritual, a chance to have an unexpected variable impact an old, familiar circuit. The product, then, might not matter as much as the process, meaning that what's fun for the musicians to make might not be so good for listeners to hear. Especially when the collaborators are bands with highly developed styles of their own, the results tend to be awkward and hesitant, the sound of unfamiliar allies still looking for their best way to work.
Chicago noise metallurgists Locrian and Chapel Hill's Horseback, the nom de guerre of like-minded form bender Jenks Miller, are such bands. Locrian pushes the limits of violence in harsh noise and extreme metal with maniacal enthusiasm, making a sound that's so mean it often starts to seem pretty. Last year's Territories, for instance, blended black metal and power electronics to a point that threatened to burn speaker wires, making the band's comedowns that much more compelling. Meanwhile, Horseback does much the same in a much more relaxed and languid Southern fashion, adding just enough influence of rhythm 'n' blues in concoctions of sludge, drone and noise to defrost the music's cold Scandinavian core. It's easy to imagine how a collaboration between the two could be stilted, the relentless push of Locrian canceling the measured pull of Horseback until all momentum is squandered.
And New Dominions—recorded last September when Locrian toured to North Carolina for Hopscotch Music Festival—is a rather still listen. Six-minute opener "The Gift" marches with impossible patience as lonely bass drum mutters hold the anchor amid noise that trickles like lava and vocals that suggest a slow strangle to silence. The eruption is slight, with broken drum rolls eventually punctuating the din. "Our Epitaph," the other piece on the one-sided vinyl release, is more than twice as long. Like the lead, it's a work of slowly devolving stasis. A lashed bass guitar, angry vocals and a hi-hat that snaps shut with industrial purpose start the piece. "Tremors of sky/ Punctuated by flares/ Above primeval ruins," a voice invokes, recalling the ruinous landscapes of Territories. The sound is steadily swallowed by an ocean of piercing feedback and subterranean tone; order is overwhelmed.
Paradoxically, this collaboration works because it finds solidarity in misanthropy. Mean as hell, loud as your speakers will allow, New Dominions is the sound of old ideas imploding.