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Still not developed at all - 55%

iamntbatman, November 19th, 2009

Warhorse continue their mammoth trudge through ultra-downtuned stoner metal on their second EP, The Priestess. If you're familiar with stoner/doom in the vein of Sleep and Electric Wizard, Warhorse won't be surprising at all but unfortunately, they hadn't fully developed their particular take on the genre as of this release and matters are marred further by production that pushes the guitar to the back of the mix, a misstep that takes a great deal away from the potency of the band's riff-focused style.

The three-track EP kicks off with the title track. There's nothing offensive at all about it, music-wise, but ultimately the song fails to impress. The riffs themselves are entirely lackluster compared to those found on the previous EP. The guitar tone sounds just fine in theory but the guitar is just so damn quiet in the mix that it loses nearly all of its potency. The song is quite slow throughout the beginning section, a problem that would be largely alleviated by a beefier guitar presence and riffs that could be a lot more memorable. Luckily, things kick into overdrive about halfway through the song when the tempo doubles. There's actually a pretty incendiary guitar solo in this section of the song, serving as its high point. The bass playing is nothing to write home about, largely following the guitar riffs, but the bass is absolutely way too high in the mix. I know, I know, this is a stoner/doom release and it's supposed to have a lot of bass but this isn't the crushing, thunderous bass you expect out of a stoner metal album (i.e. the kind you do hear on Warhorse's full-length) but rather that massive wall of rumbling you hear at concerts where the bass guitar is turned into a ridiculously low-end drone that's not recognizable as really playing distinct notes. The drumming on the track is fairly basic but sits just about right in the mix so it doesn't offend in the way the bass does. The vocals are kind of a rough-edged singing that honestly sounds a bit amateurish and completely lack the potency they'd have just one year later on the full-length.

The second, much shorter track "Jam" sounds pretty much like you'd expect based on the name: plodding drums and that still too loud bass rumble along while the guitar (apparently with the volume doubled for this track) goes into "check out all of my sweet effects pedals" mode for a lengthy, jammy solo. It's an instrumental track and is a bit directionless, but the louder guitar alone is enough to make this more interesting than the title track. With a little more focused sense of direction, this would probably make a fine instrumental intro, interlude or maybe even outro on a proper album but as it is, wedged between two longer songs, it just seems kind of superfluous.

The closing track is about as "way out of left field" as you can get for a band like Warhorse: a cover of Boston-based thrash outfit Wargasm's "Wasteland" off of that band's debut album. It really takes a close listen to even identify it as such as Warhorse turn what was originally a four minute song out to over sixteen minutes of creeping doom. The thing is...thrash riffs don't sound good slowed down, really. Sure you can slow them down to a mid-paced groove and you might end up with something worthwhile, but this is apparently not the case with this particular track. The barely-there guitar from the title track is back as well which pretty much renders this a muddy, slowed down thrash bass riff over some slow drums. The vocals have a little more roughness to them than on "The Priestess" but they're still a bit amateur sounding. Maybe if this was recorded with much better production it might be more interesting but as it is, it just doesn't work. Thrash riffs that are repeated eight times over the course of 20 seconds or so just become tedious when they're slowed down and repeated eight times over the course of two minutes, sorry. There are some kind of cool feedback-y psychedelic guitar lead parts in the second half of the song but aren't anything we haven't heard the band do better elsewhere.

The Priestess is probably Warhorse's weakest release and suffers from their worst songwriting. From a technical standpoint, the production is a bit better than it was on the Lysergic Communion EP, but the mix is unbalanced enough that it hardly matters. Of the two, Lysergic Communion is a better choice if you need a fix for early Warhorse but honestly, to all but the most die-hard fans, both can be skipped over. Head straight to the brilliant As Heaven Turns To Ash instead.