Thursday, May 17, 2012

When the still sea conspires an armor : HORSE LATITUDES "Awakening"

HORSE LATITUDES "Awakening" (Doomentia Records)

According to Wikipedia, the horse latitudes are  subtropical lattitudes and 35 degrees both north and south and under a ridge of high pressure called the subtropical high, which receives little precipitation and has variable winds mixed with calm. Jim Morrisson then wrote a poem, based on a vague story about a ship being struck in this part of the world due to the lack of wind, the sailors being forced in the end to eat their horses and drink their blood in order to stay alive, when all else has already been consumed. Accordingly, the poem ended being a spoken word piece on The Doors' second album “Strange Days”, with a lot of noisy sound as background music. Knowing all that, I wasn't surprise to see both the name of the region and the poem being used as influence for a finnish Sludge band.

Horse Latitudes are from Helsinki and the three-pieces band is a rather unusual entity. Mostly because they follow in the steps of Bunkur, as being a band using two basses, vocals, drums and some noise/samples. But where Bunkur was using this idea  to play the heaviest Drone/Doom you could find on the face of this Earth (and actually, missing the point on their last album by...oh, just being an universe away from actually being good or just interesting), Horse Latitudes prefer to bring a bit of structure to their music. This is not the swampy Sludge from the Louisiana bayous you'll find here, but something colder, with a feeling of urban decay and despair, not unlike bands like Bloody Panda (albeit less arty). There's also a typical northern blackness creeping in from time to time, and for some reasons I really can't explain, I was somewhat reminded that this is what could have been done if the Beherit from the”Drawing Down The Moon” era had performed Sludge instead of Black Metal.

So, no ripped hardcore vocals here, nor any shrieks. Some occasional screams, but mostly a clean voice with some ritualistic edge (the end of 'Profane Awakening' sounds like if drummer/vocalist Harri is busy summoning something from deep below N'kai). In fact, the vocals are very typically finnish, reminding you a bit of Lord Vicar (and even a small bit of Aaron Stainthorpe in the mourning parts of 'Into The Deep'). But the music's slow, very oppressive, with some crushing parts and a palpable feeling of despair and abandonment. But the band never forget to go into more upbeat territories once in a while ('Decline Of The Ages' being a very good use of the alternance of slow/quick/slow parts), and even there they shine. The production gives the album a dry and dusty sound, a perfect representation of what you should feel while being slowly dehydrated and naturally mummified under the desert heat.

Horse Latitudes have managed to bring something new to the Sludge/Stoner/Doom scene. This already is a good point, but what is better is that they've managed to do it good. I've heard already too much albums starting with a great idea and ending being a big pile of shit because the idea wasn't well used, or the musicians simply didn't knew how to play their instruments. This is not the case here : Horse Latitudes have done a wonderful second album, and have matured a lot as a band. If you've ever wondered what would the bastard child of OM and Fleshpress would sound like...well, get yourself stucked under the Horse Latitudes and you'll find out.

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