The ever watchful eye of the moon, luminescent, presiding over the darkest dominions of mankind. Producing the fearful and phobic period of our daily lives called night, allowing humankind's worst doubts and woes to creep silently upon us. For centuries the moon has been considered a deity, various pagan societies have centered their worship around the numinous rock. Today that tradition continues through the psych-dark pop industrial portal torn open by Seattle's Haunted Horses. With their 2013 full length Watcher, abstract and ethereal landscapes are brought to life through the nine tracks of chaotic, monotonous and rhythmic originality.
Much like the rituals and ceremonies repeatedly observed throughout the album, a participant is expectant of a gruesome outcome. All in order to tear down the established order and bring forth a new "light" upon the world. Watcher mercilessly ushers in this new order with its conceptual tale of moon worship, absolving the past reich of purity and dethroning what the world has come to know as holy. Continuous themes and phrases are repeated throughout, the title itself gives jarring reference to the moon and its dominance over the mystical world of darkness. Winter, candle light, children of light, children drowning, westward movement, tears, bathing in bodies of salt water, mirrors, thrones and the sky are all common themes lyrically within Watcher. Many of these themes giving ode to the process of life and death, birth and rebirth. The over laying story line follows the phases of the moon in an animistic tale of purging the world of former deities with promise of a pure rebirth under the watchful eyes of the moon.
"Forsake the emptiness of prayer and drown the idols, cleansing inside a worlds lost light, which healed them." Promises of absolution in wake of destruction are spoken throughout the track "The Void." A tune that pulsates symbiotically with the dance ridden sparsity of its back beat. Drums contour the massive mold created by the sawed out, pulsating sounds of what seems to be a guitar, fuzzy droning bass and ghastly vocals; with a movement that goes from syncopated hits, clicks and clacks to crashing cymbals raining down upon the listener. The highlight of the song occurs as the drums switch to a simple hi-hat dance, the guitar/synth/bass (all instrument are heavily dowsed in effects) pulsate vigorously and "Burn The Gods" is repeatedly commandingly. The opening track "Numinous" ritualistically hums its way up into a rolling tribal beat, laid behind a guitar line that stretches and careens across time in post-rock fashion. Just as the moon, night after night, rises across the expanse of what we know as the universe. One of the more guitar heavy and structured songs on the album, it leads into a tale of demon summoning called "Goetia," bringing to mind the sludgier and more horrific aspects of post-rock legends Pelican. Dissonant guitars are strummed downwards as a second layer of dryly reverb chocked guitars crack through the skin of the song, accompanied by the heartbeat of a crashing drum kit.
"White Night" an instrumental break clocking in at just under a minute consists of the simple bell ride upheaval, turned to floor tom smack, with the whistling and screeching of multiple noise layers heard high over head. The chant of "White Night" remains constant throughout. It leads into the cosmic dark carnival pysch-surf pop tune of "The Moons March." Yes I know, that description was a little much, but if you listen to the kooky sporadic drum beats, distorted billowing bass, rhythmic, scratching guitars and moonlit carnival keyboards then you will hear just what I described. Similar, yet more chaotic and pursuing sounds can be heard on the later track "Lumenance." Its jangled thunderous drumming, groaning distanced guitar work, and superb use of low tension to high tension dynamics makes it one of the best songs on the album.
The closer "White Eyes," a track that was previously released by the band as a single, leaves the listener with a culmination of all sounds heard on Watcher, coming together in a perfect arrangement of psychedelic dark-surf pop, moon worshiping fury. Delayed and straining noises pulsate in and out as rolling drums are set into motion, much as the tides of the ocean are pulled a long by the moon, over head echoing scratches strike the listener with vigor. The song soon explodes into post-punk waves of pressuring singular distorted and fuzzy guitar and bass strokes accompanied by crashing cymbals strikes on all sides. Returning to the structure of the previously mentioned verse the song catastrophically rolls on until the climax of the song, where elements of repetitive motion are once again used to the bands advantage. "I'm coming for you all" is repeated subtly, till the rise of whatever has been summoned is too great and destruction is imminent. Apocalyptic guitar work is quickly pursued by erratic and chaotic drumming that creates a barrage of sound, alternating between cymbal and snare in every other hit, prancing along mercilessly much like the four horsemen in their siege on this earth. In between breathes the band produces white noise that destroys any conception of reality the listener may have left. And the song ends with the hammering of one last floor tom. This final track leans heaviest on the side of pop structure within the album, while maintaing the experimentation Haunted Horses is noted for.
Watcher is chock full of tricks that produce a spooky, distant and ethereal soundscape. A cacophony of layered reverb choked sounds, moaning ghastly vocals and punchy drums, all seeped in deep layers of experimentation. Sometimes coming together in mystical brilliance. Sometimes in discordant chaos. This album reaches into the deepest realms of the occult and pulls out only the most twisted and mysterious intangible relics it can find. Yet somehow, it finds a medium in the physical realm, a tangible host that delivers to us in this physical word. Through slight pop structuring, a sensible balance of melody and dissonance, touches of experimentation and noisy, industrial atmospheres, Watcher finds itself a mortal coil. A true concept album, it unravels beautifully to us both lyrically and musically.