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Whitehorse > Progression > Reviews > NausikaDalazBlindaz
Whitehorse - Progression

More death-doom sounding, less noise improv album - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, June 14th, 2011

Previous Whitehorse albums I'd heard were live ones so I was curious to find out what "Progression", being a studio album, was like. It's a good album but not the really great Whitehorse album it could have been. The music has a deep groove and emphasises repeating riffs with a sound thicker than what I remember. The overall style seems conventionally sludge / doom metal with some flashes of the noisy improv that caught my attention originally. Here the musicians concentrate on creating malevolent mood and atmosphere within structured doom metal textures and I have the impression they're trying to attract a more alternative mainstream metalhead audience.

All five tracks are quite intense and feature dark mood. The stand-out piece is "Remains Unknown" which unites the new Whitehorse with its more obviously death-flecked doomy style - there is a swamp-monster guttural vocal slimed over with reverb - and some of the older Whitehorse style that featured guitar tones and riffs so long and drawn-out that the empty space surrounding them became energised with their influence and became an important and oppressive part of the music. Repetitive guitar grinds almost endlessly while high-pitched whistles soar overhead and a gaggle of corpse beings screech and gabble fighting over what remains of the last human to die on a scorched and ravaged Earth. It can be grand stuff to listen to but just when you think you're settled with apocalyptic doom to see out your days in the underground concrete bunker, the track ends all too soon.

While Whitehorse do straightforward battery-ram death-doom on tracks like "Progression" and "Control, Annihilate" very well, and even threaten to go unhinged on the latter track, I have the sense they're holding back on going right off the straight and narrow path and venturing down sinister twisted noise-improv by-ways. I might be wrong: "Time Worn Regression" has a bubbling, roiling noise texture in its background that could explode at any moment and send those hard-working guitars, the guttural growl, the ratchety screams and the controlled percussion firing in all cardinal directions throughout the cosmos. Just as I am writing this and hearing out the music, the track does indeed ignite and launch into the stratosphere with a long though thin jet-stream of noise. The heat and acrid burning smell don't last long and one butter menthol lolly is enough to dispel the raw bitter feel the music leaves behind in your nose and throat.

The album could have been longer with extra intensity built up more slowly to blazing levels to leave a more powerful impact on listeners that lasts long after the music ends. Whitehorse seem to be holding back when they should just let rip. Though the tracks average about 6 - 8 minutes in length, they just aren't long enough to mesmerise and pummel listeners into a state where any noise pyrotechnics - and they are fairly subdued noise pyrotechnics at that - can whip them into particles of dust that vaguely resemble human form. On the other hand this album would be a good introduction for those people yet to be acquainted with the band: this is about as accessible as Whitehorse can be with just enough of their noise improv tendencies to give the music individuality and lift it above the common heard of sludge / doom releases.