Stupid band name.
Listening to Gift Horse in a warm room, I imagined how awesome it would sound on headphones whilst staring at the night sky, watching the falling snow thickening, feeling the wind grow. So despite the lack of snow, this is what I did. And given the incorporation of synthesizers and a vocoder into a traditionally guitar–centric genre, I’m sure in terms of sonic properties this isn’t black metal (synthcore? vococore? The possibilities are endless), yet a vast power, indifferent and unfathomable, shapes Gift Horse’s lyrics and is alluded to in the swirl of chugging guitars, slithering electronics and vocals that alter between booming deity and vocoder yowl, all played (or yowled) by one Matt Garfield.
Opening track The Last Resort starts as the album means to go on, by sounding like like an angry god finally set on that rampage. Squiggly little lead breaks on the synth are backed by chugging guitars, and the vocoded vocals start with
Master of light
creator of sky and sea
suffer and die
Even if they had been stripped of lyrics, Mose Giganticus’ sound allows for these songs to form a narrative, much in the same way as Born To Run or School’s Out. Of course, this narrative is not hurt by the lyrics; second track The Left Path opens with
the hand that feeds you holds you down
your will is broken
crack the switch to split the hide
maintain the order
one thousand generations long these days are numbered
As you might have figured, the lyrics are the interplaying words of a decidedly Old (Testament)–skool God and post–eviction–from–Heaven Lucifer as the Battle of Armageddon approaches. Appropriately, as the narrative builds so does the music; this battle, this moment, is nigh, and to a reckoning we draw, by hoof, wing, the shifting of the earth. The lyrics, switching between the two perspectives, are delivered in mostly–intelligible vocals, and I love how key words ring out at just the right moment to tell the story in Biblical turns and phrases. In particular:
respect, patience, sincerity
incensed, justice, nevermore
Outcast, wanderer, criminal
exiled in the days of yore (Days of Yore)
dark sun, black flame
judgment pending (The Great Deceiver)
The band name seemed less silly and more and more appropriate as Gift Horse charged on, with Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which is in part an inverted retelling of Paradise Lost, coming to mind; lofty stuff for synthcore indeed. And as song names for closing tracks go, The Seventh Seal takes the top spot, deposing Fairies Wear Boots in the process. It is the only track to take its time coming in, and builds and repeats wonderfully, with the guitar solo being absolute top of the cliff material. And then I am in the silence, in the dark, by the cold lake by the woods, a soft wind ruffling my notepad. And did not Lucifer climb out of Hell?