For Dust Thou Art
Review by Chris Pratl on April 8, 2020.
I'm not all too certain what "sludgy" doom metal is to this day, or what the word sludgy has to connote in the world of metal. I suppose I understand its purposed role of trying to illuminate metal that has a slow, almost oozing quality in a thick wraparound tapestry of sound, but it's always been a turn-off for me for whatever reason. I guess I always pictured a band playing out by a Florida swamp for people straight out of a casting call for Deliverance, but I digress. When I focus on the word "doom," my OCD allows for things much easier. Methinks I shouldn't be so damn complicated...
Now, I've seen Chicago's Pale Horseman live a few times, and I own most, if not all of their releases because they're a damn solid doom metal band with perfectly thick edges and currents, which is all for the better. In short, I really dig these guys, and the latest addition to their impressive arsenal, From Dust Thou Art, is wonderfully impressive and keeping in line with their lineage of Chicago metal goodness. I've seen the obvious comparisons to fellow artists Indian, Bongripper and Atlas Moth, and while the three are solid in their respective field of the art, Pale Horseman always seems to have some stranglehold on the necessary feel for this music that is both organic and well-orchestrated.
Gone are the days of the so-called traditional doom of Black Sabbath, St. Vitus, Pentagram, Warning and the ilk, embellished upon by the likes of Pale Horseman, who offer us a sincerely decimating sound in this album as well as their other four full-lengths and split release. By the time I was on the second track, 'Scourge,' I had moments of reflective summation and pride that such a band existed among our storied milieu. Doom / sludge metal has become, in my humble opinion, somewhat lazy and uninspired of late in that bands will throw down-tuned songs together and lay some pseudo-psychoanalytical jargon all over it to make the waters appear deep. What Pale Horseman does here is what the slow, prodding music is supposed to do – both solicit and impart responses both cerebral and emotional, and in the course of six tracks, the band manages that to a very fine degree, both musically and lyrically. Dare I say, it's music not designed for the casual fan but more for the select few in touch with the insides it seeks to penetrate?
It's hard for me to pick a favorite track on here because, quite aptly, the album runs as one long, impressive unit to me, which is its strength and resonance; I was fully engaged in it from start to finish the first two times I heard it. I do really like 'Scourge' for its seemingly epic ease into the doomed-edge musicianship and 'Disenchanter' seems to cover the landscape so evenly with a wall of chords and almost bellowing vocals that seem to inhale more than exhaling (to hear it is to understand my meaning here). One might not think that there could be peaks and valleys in such mood and tone-specific music, but there most definitely is a careful tempest covering some very distinct and plundering lulls that widen the emotional response in me. In a song like the aforementioned 'Scourge' there is a definitive feel of slow, creeping build-up, then a solid downpour of bass-laden meandering, followed by a brief acoustic apex that trudges right into one hell of a chord thumping resolution that, for me, is one of the more perfect doomy tracks I've had the pleasure to hear. The range of emotions it disseminates is just too fun and potent to ignore.
Strong in delivery and feel, pulsing in general tone, From Dust Thou Art casts a welcome dim shade of sunlight through a partially shaded room, a perfect symmetry when found through an entire album's worth of material. I'm so glad to see the penchant for well-crafted design and heavy ass tones is still prevalent with each release; these guys are also incredible live, especially in a smaller, more intimate space where the walls can reverberate their tremendous sound, so if you get the chance to check them out, please do so. Some bands just deserve your attention and respect, and Pale Horseman is a band to invest in for your sludgy-doom requirements without disappointment.
Rating: 9 out of 10228