Thunder Horse – Chosen One
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 54:17
Review by Dark Juan
It is 10:42 in the morning at Dark Juan Terrace and for some unaccountable reason I am a) awake, b) already walked the hellhounds and c) cowering in fear at the great shiny hot yellow thing in the sky because yesterday it was grey and snowing and absolutely more suited to the black gloom and morbid humour that normally characterizes my days rather than the superheated ball of gases and minerals that some folk bizarrely like to cook themselves under on the beach. I don’t like beaches. Sand is gravely inconvenient and more than a little unpleasant. Especially in crevices. In mitigation of the horror of the colossal ball of fire trying to kill me with its rays, the moors above my little village look absolutely fucking stunning in their beauty and wild, barren charm with the sun shining on them. So, it is with unaccustomed good cheer and more than a little pleasant bonhomie I present to you the latest collection of pithy platitudes and tortured metaphors that constitute the bulk of my pathetic ramblings about people with actual talent doing marvellous things and entertaining me mightily while I am a snarky bastard about their art.
Today, it is Thunder Horse being given the dubious benefit of my attention while I accompany them with a splendid bucket of Yorkshire’s finest tea and Hodgson Fartpants (number three furry son) basking in the rays streaming through the window and emitting the kind of smells that would have you up on charges of crimes against humanity in The Hague in next to no time if the CIA hadn’t bought the rights to his anal emanations for use against banana republic leaders first.
So, Thunder Horse are an American band hailing from Texas and are fronted by a man whose primary musical bent is industrial metal, being one Stephen Bishop, frontman of Pitbull Daycare. Thunder Horse has absolutely FUCK ALL to do with industrial metal, so get that idea out of your pretty little heads now. Thunder Horse play a peculiar hybrid of superdoom mixed with proggy elements and a fair bit of psychedelia and you will be no doubt unsurprised to hear that it’s right up my perverted and poorly lit street. Abandon hope all ye who enter here…
I have to say that the production on this album is absolutely sublime. I can hear everything perfectly. Normally doom metal sounds like the entire band have been recorded while they have been immersed in oxtail soup with croutons. This production is absolutely crystal clear (mixing done by Caleb Bingham and mastering by Joe Bozzi) right down to the single, quiet china hits on softer passages, yet maintaining such a huge sound that it’s like a wall of steel hitting you at 800 miles an hour. It’s not so much sound, as a weapon designed to reduce your flesh to liquid and your bones to a strange jellylike substance. And the riffs. OH, THE FUCKING RIFFS. Black Sabbath meets a bit of Jane’s Addiction, who’s been knocking off Pink Floyd and Cromagnon whilst simultaneously courting Mountain, Crowbar and Deep Purple in their darker moments make for an intoxicating mix of elements for the seasoned metal veteran to enjoy. And a slightly worrying mental image. The bass (by Mr. Dave Crow – hereby confirming my theory that EVERY band has had a Dave in them at some point) is a fuzz fuelled, rumbling beast bent on evisceration, the drums (Jason “Shakes” West) not unlike a titanic, explosive belching war machine stomping entire companies of men flat in its inexorable desire to reach you and stomp you out of existence and the guitars similar to armoured, flailing beasts with adamantium tipped claws disembowelling their foes with snarling precision. The solos of T.C. Connally are just fucking awesome as is all the guitar work on the record.
The music is also superb. The songwriting is fucking expert level and the lead vocal engaging and easy to listen to, as Stephen Bishop has a voice not unlike a mélange of Ozzy, Kirk Windstein and Dave Winegum (sorry, Wyndorf. Mrs Dark Juan and her penchant for ruining metal has always called the Monster Magnet frontman Dave Winegum and it has kind of stuck. She managed to turn the lyrics of the chorus to Ghost’s ‘Year Zero’ from “Welcome to Year Zero” to “Welcome to New Zealand”. The shit I go through for the love of metal, I tell you…) and this is the perfect mix for a doom vocalist, rather than the roaring battle machines that are normally employed.
There is a weak point, however, and that is ‘Texas’. Saying it’s a weak point is a bit churlish, but an acoustic, wah dripping paean to your home state sidles perilously close to Dark Juan’s pathological hatred of ballads and his penchant for dropping marks off scores because ballads utterly fucking ruin the magic of metal records. I mean, who, when they are happily being plastered against the opposite wall of their room by a concentrated and lethal wall of sound, wants to suddenly drop to the floor in a boneless heap while some long haired twat wails about their lost love/ being on the road all the time/ drink/ drugs/ drink AND drugs/ their home/ the 15-year-old groupie they shouldn’t have touched/ their pet fucking hamster over some delicately plucked acoustic guitar? Not me, buster. Otherwise, the music is absolute motherfucking savagery in aural form. The arrangements are uncommonly powerful and the performance absolutely top notch in execution. I particularly enjoyed the progressive elements and the way they integrated into the heaviness, providing a counterpoint to the power with melody, Hammond organs and musicianship and the simple acid fuelled joy of psychedelia.
I can’t give you any stand out tracks because the quality is so fucking extremely high, although opener ‘Let Them Bleed’ should be ranked among one of the most venomous statements of intent I have ever heard. Touches of Sir Lord Baltimore and Cream and Hendrix creep out of the background of songs and lodge themselves in your subconscious – they even use a fucking voicebox on bonus track and ode to the joy of metal that is ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ and this sends goosebumps down the spine and reminds you of the time when Aerosmith were amazing (circa 1972) and rock and metal were expansive and exploratory.
There’s also a bonus and extended version of ‘Texas’. This is a much better and more cohesive version than the version earlier on the record and reminds me greatly of the wonderful Hawkwind’s ‘Hurry On Sundown’ and bizarrely, hints of The Mamas and The Papas. Thunder Horse have redeemed themselves with what actually has turned out to be a mighty fine psychedelic little acoustic number, rather than a pants wettingly awful unplugged lighter waver.
Well done, gentlemen, well done indeed. Dark Juan is a Thunder Horse convert. You magnificent bastards.
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (y’all) awards Thunder Horse a stonking 10/10 for a fucking monster of a record that it will be singing happily along to in its grave.
‘Let Them Bleed’ (Official Video)
01. Let Them Bleed
02. Among The Dead
03. Rise Of The Heathens
04. Chosen One
05. Broken Dreams
06. Song For The Ferryman
08. Halfway To Hell
10. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Bonus Track)
11. Texas (Extended Version)
Stephen Bishop – Guitar/Vocals
T.C. Connally – Lead Guitar
Dave Crow – Bass
Jason “Shakes” West – Drums
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