London's Palehorse, a band so loud that after seeing them live recently my ears would not stop ringing for approximately two days. Was it worth it ? Completely.
Palehorse take all that they established on previous full length, Gee, Ain't That Swell released way back in 2003 and firmly thrust it into the present. A line up change here, an addition there, and Soft As Butter, Hard As Ice becomes an album I regret to say I missed upon initial release. The band's, I guess you would say, selling point is that they don't have a guitarist. "No guitarist ?!" you cry. Well, no, but they do have two bassists and in vocalist Nikolai Grune, a genuinely frightening front man who can't seem to stay still for any longer than a second. Add to this mix electronic noise, hypnotic and gargantuan bass riffs and more screaming than you can shake a stick at, and you've got a recipe for success.
"Skip To The End" is a beautifully simple and minimal intro. A barely there bass line undercut with feedback likely not heard on even the best of headphones. It segues nicely into "South London, Where Dreams Are Allowed To Breathe" with the bass reverbing and jarring with small crashes of cymbal, the music quite doom-like in nature. Then a harsh scream in the midst of all that quiet. It's a pattern repeated until around the four minute mark where things speed up a tad. Grune's vocal at times so pained and despairing you can feel the stab in your heart.
"Shit Columbo" is a mass of deep rumbling roars, ofttimes spoken vocals, and coarse screams. Palehorse utilise a second vocalist, Mark Dicker (Trencher - who also happens to provide all the electronic madness) to compliment Grune's range perfectly and it's on this track that the two really work in harmony to drive the energy. It gives this band the edge over other similar artists, bands that want to be this intense yet fall way short of the mark. Even in their quieter moments, they manage to be more passionate than most.
Soft As Butter, Hard As Ice is a record of two extremes. No more apparent than on "Challenge Hannukkah" which for the first time on the record has a melodic vocal chorus of sorts and even a little bit of a hand clap. Much removed from the caustic feeling you get from other tracks on this album. But don't worry, that acidic nature is still there.
Palehorse are certainly a curious entity. Sublime bass lines, so heavy you can almost feel them weighing on your shoulders share space with softly spoken words on "Just Fill Your Ears With Wax (And Fucking Sail)" a sort of narrative essay on modern life. Around five minutes in and the true weight of having two bass guitars kicks in, the vocal is sung and there's that ever present severe scream backing it all up.
Album closer "How To Avoid Huge Riffs" begins with a massive wall of sound, intense and somewhat distorted chords that stop and start with no warning. Again a spoken vocal, telling the kind of story you wish you never have to encounter, both vocalists contributing to the fray. The sound is mighty, all rolling drums, and, dare I say it, funky bass. The undulating style of the track is pure Palehorse. Loud to quiet in nary a blink of the eye, never doing what you would expect it to. Never has torment sounded so engaging.
8.0 / 10
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