Horseback - Piedmont Apocrypha (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Piedmont Apocrypha (2014)

Three Lobed Records

Historically, non-metal records from metal bands have been a mixed bag. In the very recent past, quality control has ranged from excellent (Kylesa's psychedelic bummer jams on Ultraviolet) to ho-hum (Alcest's grunge balladry on Shelter). Given that Jenks Miller (a.k.a. Horseback) perfected his particular blend of haunting folk metal on 2012's Half Blood, I guess he was about due to fuck with his style.

Admittedly, Piedmont Apocrypha is still very much in the Americana droning style Miller has delivered before. It's not like he made a dance record or something. But it's so thoroughly unmetal that it's shocking. Piedmont doubles down on the sparse psych-folk, resulting in a record that could appeal to fans of Mazzy Star. After Half Blood's dissonance, it's a surprising, yet welcome shift to calmer settings.

Opener "Passing Through" announces a new Horseback right away, with a single chord ringing endlessly and light percussion throughout. But it's just a teaser compared to the 10-and-a-half-minute title track. Miller is a prolific musician, and this song is very much in keeping with his guitar improvisations released under his own name, but for him to equate this with Horseback makes for a twist.

Piedmont is much cleaner-sounding than previous releases, but like all Horseback albums, it makes for excellent mood music. While it never gets heavy (save for the epic final track), it's still plenty trippy. The only major stumble comes at the end, with the 17-minute closer "Chanting Out the Low Shadow." Miller never deploys his demonic black metal growl, favoring clean vocals. It works overall, but his nasally delivery over such a lengthy drone tune will test some listeners. But no matter how much Miller tweaks his approach, he still nails the finished compositions.