All hail the return of Floridian Hardcore beast Horsewhip. For those who missed it, the quartet dropped a powerful opening statement in 2018 with their self-titled debut. Now they are set to drop their full-length Laid to Waste on September 25th, courtesy of Roman Numeral Records and Financial Ruin.
Now when thinking of “atmospheric music,” one may typically envision the artier side of Norwegian Black Metal or some Post-Metal outfit, but Horsewhip actually possesses the atmosphere as well, and they do so without sacrificing one iota of hammering brutality. While hinted at previously, Laid to Waste mixes heaviness with equal parts subtlety and nuance.
Any concerns about compromise though are quickly put to rest with the album opener “Stillborn”, a paint-peeling blast of fury. This is quickly followed by “Feast”, which is also extremely intense, but three-quarters of the way through, a reverb-drenched guitar line rises up and takes center stage. It is melodic but doesn’t come at the expense of the intensity.
Just as on the last release, this guitar work is a prominent feature of the band’s identity. Something about these riffs allows so much more nuance and texture into the record. In addition though, Laid to Waste connects the songs with short ambient-style interludes. These are subtle and quiet, mostly played on the guitar and bass, and often reference the chord progressions of the songs bookending these moments. In the case of the track “Ruin”, this dark and graceful sound is showcased for the entire track.
Fear not though, the focus of “Laid to Waste” is still Hardcore, born of a fury of our modern times. Horsewhip express anger through rapidly shifting tempos and riffs, expertly straddling the line between chaos and precision. Standouts include “Pray for the Dead” and “Lowlands”. The latter walks a fine line between 90’s inspired Screamo and the epic sounds of Neurosis, or more accurately their crustier counterparts Logical Nonsense. In under two and a half minutes, they express so much extreme emotion and a song so evocative, one would swear the song was twice as long.
Truth be told, the various strains of Hardcore still haven’t regained the prominence that they seemed to possess in the Nineties, but overall the genre is on the rise. This momentum isn’t going to be achieved through bands willing to ape their forebearers, but by those who can create their own sound. Horsewhip is blazing a path all their own, and the genre is so much better for it. Atmosphere and fury walk hand in hand, dynamics, and brutality experience a perfect alchemical marriage. Get in early while you can, Laid to Waste is a release not to be missed.