If you think the best metal coming out today isn't coming from the South, you might want to look around. Aside from acts that have the best live sets and some of the strongest riffs, it's obvious that the southern states are producing some of the most intriguing and prolific metal acts in recent years. When you first hear Houston's Funeral Horse, you should notice that they're not following trends, they're not attempting to be something they're not, and their roots lie somewhere between Led Zeppelin and Unsane. On their latest release, Psalms For The Mourning, they not only widen that gap in influence, they break it apart while showing that solid metal doesn't have to follow any predetermined path.
The album opens with the throwback "Better Half Of Nothing," offering up some serious riffs that remind you of the past without seeming to copy any of it. They mix things up and incorporate new styles on the second track, "No Greater Sorrow (Than My Love)" by adding bongos and extra percussion. It may sound like they're steering the ship toward the rocks at first, but they come full circle quickly and right things before anyone goes overboard.
On the third track, "Emperor Of All Maladies" guitarist Walter Carlos takes you for a doomy ride. The band mixes things up again with the acoustic opening of "1965," but they aren't going into ballad territory either. Adding piano might make you think that's the case, and it's a gamble for any band to go that route, though it pays off. When the drums from Chris Bassett come in with this crazed jazz intensity, they're met with Carlos' heavy riffing and Clint Rater's murky bass to create a dark and speedy jam.
The trio keeps things dark and heavy on "Divinity For The Wicked." This is these three at their best, playing metal without compromising their dark vision of where things should go. That continues on the sludge sounding opening of "Burial Under The Sun" before things pick up and quickly remind you of the earlier works of bands like Megadeth and even Iron Maiden, where solid riffs were more important than being the fastest or the heaviest. Band members sound like they are playing in a fallout shelter while they await the end of the world.
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They close things off with the fun and inventive sounds of "Evel Knievel Blues," offering up yet another side. It sounds closer to a mix of Butthole Surfers' cover of the Donovan track, "The Hurdy Gurdy Man" if it were done bluegrass style than anything else.
By steering away from the normal "let's follow a path" rules that modern metal bands have been employing lately, the three piece offer up a sound that doesn't shy from metal music without getting too deep into a formula. You can stream Psalms For The Mourning all you want above or you can pre-order your own copy directly from Artificial Head Records. Funeral Horse is set to tour in support of the album later this year, but you can catch them in person this Saturday June 16 at Spruce Goose. The all ages album release party will feature performances from Darwin's Finches, Ruiners, and a very rare set from Trillblazers. Doors at 8 p.m.; tickets $5.