Drowning Horse – The Sheltering Sky

Every band has growing pains. Very rarely does a band strike it rich on their very first release, particularly if they have no prior ones. Of course, there are some examples of bands striking gold almost immediately, and the career that succeeds them is either one filled with just as much success or a large amount of heartbreak and nostalgia, with fans clamoring about what once was. Drowning Horse is a band that is in the middle of preparing for the release of their second studio album, and this one is very critical. Many bands fall into the “sophomore slump”, where they inevitably attempt to either recreate their debut or attempt a slightly different direction. This has varying degrees of success, and there are many modern examples, such as Periphery and Rivers Of Nihil, that are examples of the different end results. So where does Drowning Horse stand when it comes to the overall quality and content of their newest effort?

Let’s start from the beginning. Their first record was very long, with its four tracks amounting to over an hour of doom metal. Their second record, with its eight tracks, is an even denser listen, with four of its tracks amounting to almost an hour of music. This ambitious idea is one that has been executed many times in the past with many different end results. However, some of these songs seem to meander aimlessly at times, and the shorter songs serve more as instrumental interludes than anything else. Yes, some of them contain the short story, but they could have worked more effectively if the album was composed of songs the same length (around five to six minutes as opposed to thirteen).

In regards to the longer songs, which make up the meat of the record, they have their highs and lows. They’re all epic journeys through the mind of a man or woman in the midst of strife, something some difficult to overcome that it seems impossible, and it likely is. However, they songs finish without striking the appropriate chord. By this, we’re talking about having that “one” moment, where the length makes sense, the climax is reached, and the journey comes to an end. However, after each song, it feels like the climax is still somewhere on the horizon, but unfortunately we never seem to reach it. The sole exception to this song is the album’s closing track, “Sacrifice”, which strikes all the right strings inside of the listener and will leave you feeling satisfied, and more comfortable with the long journey through the record.

This is not a knock on the band by any means. You can clearly see that the drive, the ambition is there, but the band is in the middle of an identity crisis. At the proverbial impasse, they seem to have been in flux while deciding which path to take. The shorter tracks don’t make sense when put next to the longer tracks, and vice versa. If the album was made up of one or the other, it would definitely make the listener feel more satisfied by the time it’s over. It’s a shame the band couldn’t seem to figure out which direction they wanted to take, but this criticism serves as a form of guidance to help them make that choice. Whether they want to aim for epic songs of great length or short songs to compose one long sonic exploration is their decision, and hopefully they can pick one side of the fence and try it out to see how it works.

As it stands right now, the band is in the middle of what appears to be their sophomore slump. While the songs themselves have cool ideas, they’re unfortunately not fully executed, and often leaves you feeling famished by their end. The band definitely has some work to do, but the important thing for them is to realize that their potential is there, and whether or not they realize it is completely up to them.

Drowning Horse’s The Sheltering Sky gets…

3/5

-SS

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