Horses live troubled lives. They cart. They carry. They race. They die if they fail. And now the poor bastards have yetis on them. It’s a cruel world and one depicted by Yeti on Horseback (band from Ontario, yetis from Northern Saskatchewan) through their bleak doom metal. The back-breaking trial of a horse’s resolve is comparable with Yeti on Horseback‘s debut album, The Great Dying. Just as the horse will struggle before collapsing, you too will labor in futility before giving way to the hopelessness of further listening.
So The Great Dying is substantially doom metal. It’s largely slow-to-mid-paced and features hoarse growls with just a touch of swagger. The overall tone is one of darkness and desolation, substantiated with length and repetition. I will say at the outset that this is one of the most repetitive doom albums I’ve ever heard. YOB is a vaguely-audible comparison but where they layer infectious melodies and write intertwining songs which take the listener on a journey, Yeti on Horseback are stationary: their songwriting amounts to a couple of ideas which are repeated around or beyond the 10-minute mark. There’s no urgency and the rhythm stagnates about 3 minutes in. The misplaced commitment to repetition is infinitely exacerbated by the unnecessary length of tracks and the album as a whole. Only an interlude is less than 9 minutes and 3 of the 6 tracks exceed 12. The Great Dying goes nowhere quickly and you will tire while it’s running (or plodding).
Building on this, these long tracks do nothing to incite repeat listens. None concludes with any sort of payoff and all limp through to their conclusion scarcely raising an eyebrow, let alone pumping any blood. The intro to “Fables and Lies” is the best example of this – a decent passage of strong bass and bells gradually ramps up before retreating just before the climax hits. It absolutely fails to capitalize on any anticipation generated. Change is sign-posted by short transitions or maybe a solo but it’s incredible how little development there really is in some of these tracks. “Tree of Death” and “Viking Mushroom Tea” (great title) act as listless one-two punch openers and both change meaningfully about 5 times during their 9 to 13 minute durations. It’s certainly not a great first impression and not one I’ve overcome.
At least “Elephant Man” makes some sense and injects some personality. Based on the 1980 David Lynch film, its prelude and opening feature appropriately solemn sound bites to confer something a little deeper to the track. It’s far and away the best track and not just for this component: it’s more engaging musically and treads a more satisfying path. The first riff draws from the NWoBHM tool-kit and develops to harmonize these cleaner lines with the thumping guitars with which you’ll already be acquainted. Clean female vocals are also introduced around the mid-point which have a weird high-pitched, child-like tone, drawing to my mind J-pop. It’s slightly bizarre though is at least different. Any sense of satisfaction you may glean here is subsequently obliterated by the typically boring closer but this is a positive point from which growth can occur.
Any consumption of The Great Dying has to be segregated as your attention will leave you for dead. Even then, the only segment which comes vaguely recommended is “Elephant Man.” The rest is a mire of mediocrity and repetition. I toil with albums like this so you don’t have to, so heed my advice: don’t mount the horse in the first place.