While I hate to write a review for a band in context with other bands, it would be difficult not to mention our current sludgy overlords of Mastodon and Baroness with Horseburner. It’s interesting to see how a previous generation of metal darlings has a strong influence on rising musicians. And there’s a strong balance you might want to reach when you’re citing an influence. You certainly don’t want to sound like a straight copy of another band, but you do want to build off of what the previous generation has done. With that, let’s talk about The Thief and Horseburner.
West Virginia’s own Horseburner has been burning it down since 2009. The Thief is the band’s second full-length release after 2 EPs and 2016’s Dead Seed, Barren Soil. The band has been cultivating this unique combo of stoner metal, sludge, and progressive elements. You can understand why the Baroness and Mastodon references would be so apt here, but make no mistake in thinking that they just a copy of those other bands. This band produces their own variation on the sound based on stoner psychedelia that creates their own signature blend here.
The more interesting thing is to experience is to see how their influences have been built upon with new ideas. There is a lot of those influences to unpack here from Baroness-style songwriting and Mastodon-style riffs and progression. However, there’s an original tone the band has to serve up those ideas. You hear the fuzzy edges of their guitars and the layered vocals delivering the songs. It’s that slight turn on an established sound that makes it an inspired listening experience.
This band has perfected the art of drama in music. I couldn’t get that thought out of my head through my multiple playthroughs of The Thief. These songs aren’t just getting cranked out to take up minutes on a full-length LP. These songs are true compositions that express feelings and emotions. Too often these days, albums feel pretty thoughtless as if bands are just getting together to crank out content instead of expressing themselves. You cannot say that about Horseburner. A lot of thought and sweat was put into The Thief.
This is how a band should come about and grow. Yes, they’ve been around for awhile, but there’s a lot of work that should get put into making a record and establishing your own voice. You have to learn from somewhere, and Horseburner has chosen the right mentors to make this kind of sound. There’s a lot of their own spin put onto this sludgy, doomy, proggy metal. In so doing, they’ve created a sound that has a real soul to it and feels very much alive.
While The Thief shows off everything Horseburner is currently capable of, it’s also a glimpse of what this band can still do. There’s still room for growth in this sound to fully flesh it out. That’s not an indictment of something they haven’t yet done or something they were supposed to do. Far from it. This is a sound that is a pretty original and mature sound. This isn’t just a couple of kids jamming in the garage. This is some true songwriting. Yet there still feels like there’s room for growth. Each successive release has seen Horseburner expanding their sound to incorporate other ideas and grow even more. One can only suspect that they’ll continue to grow from here. While a wonderful work, The Thief is only the beginning.
The Thief is available now via Ripple Music.