Review: Horse Head – Missionary

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Why am I writing a full review for an EP? Because it’s damn good, that’s why. I recommend you stretch those neck muscles before reading this, because Missionary is a banger.

PR professionals have a penchant for hyperbole, which I understand. It’s only natural, considering they need their promos to capture the attention of extremely busy writers like myself. For the first time, I have been completely surprised – not by how much a band failed to fulfil its description, but by how much the band surpassed it.

The title track opens the release by gifting your left ear with a little over 10 seconds of fuzzed-out riffage that wouldn’t sound out of place in a High On Fire record. Soon, the whole band kicks in with indefectible groove and unmeasurable vitriol, the latter thanks to Horse Head‘s amazing vocalist. I’ll just assume that he has a siamese twin or multiple personality, as I’m convinced that a regular human being is just not capable of alternating between deranged shrieking and deep gutturals with such ease. A slightly quieter, more melodic bridge is interrupted by a halt. After brief silence, the closing section of the song begins. Even though its slow burning riff is very good, the real star of this section is the drummer’s fills, perfectly placed and hard hitting.

“Red-eyed Angel” cuts through screeching feedback in a similar fashion as the start of “Missionary”, but quickly evolves into something else. By this point the songwriting ability of the band becomes evident. I’m talking about a sludge band playing a slammy riff that perfectly suits the gurgly gutturals, following it with buzzing guitars, a bass drop and a groove reminiscent of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, albeit much heavier.

“Whiskey and Blood” is equal parts Blood Mountain and Holy Mountain, bouncing between different references and different speeds but still keeping the riffs tasteful. My favorite track, EP closer “Destroyer Television”, is much more introspective. It starts with the kind of guitar tone that evokes imagery of slow waves and ripples on a pond. If you payed enough attention to Kyuss‘ jam moments, and Josh Homme’s jangly downtuned tone in them, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this. The build-up and release that finishes the ordeal is absolutely phenomenal.

I am deducting one point from an otherwise perfect score because A) the bass is a little too low on the mix for my tastes and B) there’s only 4 songs instead of 10. Hurry up and write me an album, you guys. I need it.

4-5_of_5

Missionary is easily among the top 3 EPs I have listened to all year. Through its 18 minute course, Horse Head makes a clear and bold statement: the top of the sludge food chain is looking at new predators. The Missionary EP will be self-released in CD and digital formats on September 25. Meanwhile, you can jam the title track on repeat via No Clean Singing. Also, make sure to throw them a like on Facebook.

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