Pale Horseman – For Dust Thou Art Review

Pale Horseman1 have only been around for eight years, but For Dust Thou Art is the Chicago sludge quartet’s fifth album and their 2017 effort, The Fourth Seal, showed enough promise that I kept their name on my radar. I’m a fan of the (rather typical) influences I could hear on that record – early Mastodon, Neurosis, High on Fire – and thought the band was onto something good despite the overly long compositions. I’ve been looking forward to hearing how they hone their craft for the past three years now, hoping to hear them set themselves apart from what can often be considered a very homogeneous genre.

One thing Pale Horseman have taken care of is bloat. Rather than an hour of music spanning nine songs, For Dust Thou Art gives us a mere six songs in 38 relatively succinct minutes, making this thick stew of metal more easily digested. Sludge acts are infamous for trundling along for an interminable length of time, second only to doom in overly long compositions that often don’t warrant it. Delivering songs in the four- to seven-minute range certainly perks things up. This serves the band well on songs like “Tundra” and “Scourge,” where their mid-paced steamroller holds our attention. “Tundra” is the concise album opener, and it simply pounds our eardrums for four unpretentious minutes. “Scourge” throws us for a loop by incorporating some Eastern-flavored acoustic guitars, making for a compelling twist.

For Dust Thou Art is a front-loaded album, with the memorability of the songs slowly diminishing from start to end. Without fail, over the nine or ten times the album played at Chez Huck I found myself distracted by shiny objects by the fourth song. Many times I had to restart the back half of the album with renewed focus, and that’s not a good sign. By the time “Archangel” rumbles to its repetitive finish I’m ready to move on to next week’s music. “Disenchanter” takes too long to find its footing despite featuring the best vocal performance on the album. A better arrangement could have made this song an album highlight. By the time the final two tracks lurch into the speakers I’m drumming my fingers on the table, ready to move on.

Sanford Parker worked with Pale Horseman on this album, continuing the band’s tradition of enlisting help from folks who have worked with their influences. Parker does a solid job of harnessing the band’s power via Rich Cygan’s thick bass tone that breaks up just the right amount, Jason Schryver’s meaty drums with plenty of weight behind them, and gruff and gravelly vocals from the two guitarists, Eric Ondo and Andre Almaraz. There are definitely no issues with the musical or vocal performances here; quite simply, the songwriting lets the band down. Interesting riffs and memorable arrangements are not easy to come by. The band oozes sludgy potential, but too often that potential is not reached, instead merely hinted at. Closing track “Cydonia” is a great example, as the first thirty seconds promise an apocalyptical number but it just never leaves the runway.

I was hoping for more from Pale Horseman, and while For Dust Thou Art is by no means a bad sludge record, it fails to stand out from the crowd. There are compelling moments on a number of songs, but overall the album fails to maintain its grip on our throats, and when the mind wanders so too must the rating. Pale Horseman will continue to stay perched upon my sludge radar, because I know they’ve got a shitkicker of an album in them, just waiting to get out. For Dust Thou Art isn’t that album, though.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 31st, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Shouldn’t it be Horsemen?
« »