When I received Horsewhip’s latest album, Laid to Waste, for review, I was pumped solely because of the selling point regarding members’ pasts. I thought it would be fair of me after reading “featuring members of Sutek Conspiracy, Combatwoundedveteran, and Reversal of Man” to expect that I would be delving into a resurgence of 90’s Floridian screamo (skramz or emoviolence if ya nasty). Seeing how I touched briefly in an article about suspending a project’s expectations based on the member’s previous acts, I should have heeded my own advice. It took less than 5 seconds into the opener “Stillborn” for me to realize I’m not going to relive the wonder of hearing something like “Get The Kid With The Sideburns” for the first time again. That may have been a disappointment at first, but the album itself is far from that.
The vocals provided by Mike Grantham are deeper and gruffer than anticipated and the steadier “crash & bang” rhythm were stark contrasts to the more common shrill vocals and chaotic drum work that I had expected. There are times throughout the album where you can see growth from the past. Guitarist Shaun Drees seems to expand on the melodies and formulas used by those 90’s groups into a new context – but I’m hesitant to call it post-skramz because that is the stupidest fucking term I’ve ever heard. The screamo aspects seem minimized here aside from touches of melodies and musical restraint from unnecessary fills and solos and that it has more of an influence from crust and d-beat. After repeated listens, I would say that Horsewhip has more in common with Tragedy or His Hero is Gone than the member’s previous groups.
After stepping away from that “members of” influence, I was able to respect what the band has crafted. This is an excellent weaving of atmospheric elements (best portrayed in the instrumental “Ruin”) and melodies with the drive and vitriol of crust and pain-laden vocals that have matured beyond a focus on the angst of youth to the disgust towards reality of the middle-aged. Say what you will about Florida and all the weird, crazy, wrong, and stupid stuff that people down there have done, you still can’t deny that the state tends to pump out some high-quality bands and Horsewhip is one of them.
Written by Ted Berger
*Edited by Dominic Abate