HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

A Natural Death (Combat/Koch)

If it was possible to pack in more entertainment than '05's Mechanical Hand, Horse The Band (hate that name - why not just call yourselves Wrathchild America or Bush X?) have done it. It's heartening to see that talent will "out," and that these nutballs are making a name for themselves, getting good reviews, shifting units. What you get is a bunch of fresh, novel, spirited entertaining neo-metal derived from Napalm Death fireworks through post-rock, plus of course, the Nintendocore subplot. Chuck in Deadsy, The Jesus Lizard and Thought Industry and slather on lyrics readable and smile-inducing even without music, and you've got a crumpled and uncrumpled collage of shadows thrown that keep enlightening every few seconds. Then there's the disco song, the spoken word, the gal sobbing... these wiseacres just keep you coming back for more crispy bacon. Yum.
Rating 8

Gambling With The Devil (SPV)

Another tired record title, and I'm starting to wonder if the 'weenies are trending toward Scorpions in the out of touch zone. In any event, they can still churn blustery metal, Gambling With The Devil being one of the band's fastest and heaviest albums ever. The riffs here are positively amplifier-melting, as is the production, almost too much so, this thing sizzled with so much ProTooled treble 'n' snap that panic attacks seem imminent. The piano-riddled 'As Long As I Fall' is the record's first single, or for all intents and purposes, something that the label wants to point at as a good song with something of a hook. It's actually some of that as well as nearly prog metal. Adding to the nervous agitation of the record though, Deris is singing thin and high and then mixed way back. The listener ends up overwhelmed with wattage. Football match choruses valiantly remind one of the band's human touch, but it's often too little too late - this is an eardrum-shattering power metal album meant for headbanging. Three tracks totaling 15 minutes in the middle comprise a mini concept album - a concept EP as it were - and what you get is the caffeinated helloween of old plus some good ol' Italian-styled Hollywood metal. Suite-closing track 'I.M.E' offers the album's best riff, arrangement and most convincing melodies. And then the band is into the shockingly Sweet-glammy 'Can Do It' before taking off like a rocket again for 'Dreambound' and the rich and moving album closer 'Heaven Tells No Lies'. I dunno, fans should dig this I suppose, as it's a big pumpkin pie with lotsa whip cream, but I can't help thinking it's time for a new producer. Charlie Bauerfeind is doing too many power metal albums, and a lot of them are sounding exactly as hysterical and shrieky as this one is.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 4