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PYRAMIDS/HORSEBACK – A Throne Without a King
reviewed by Paul J. Comeau
04.23.2012

A Throne Without a KingPyramids is a group that, prior to this recording, was almost mythical to me. I’d heard more about the band than I’d actually heard their music. Everything I’d heard was the most glowing of praise, so when I found out that they were working on a collaboration with Horseback I was eager to check it out.

Horseback make some of the most interesting music I’ve had the pleasure of discovering in the past few years.  Principle songwriter Jenks Miller brings together an array of musical genres as diverse as black metal, drone, and ambient, melting them down and forging them into a unique multi-textured sound. Each Horseback release has had a different vibe to it, mixing different amounts of their varied influences and sounds to produce a string of unique recordings. While each recording might be unique, there is a common signature to them as Horseback recordings that is unmistakable, leaving the listener immensely satisfied.

The vinyl version of this release includes a split seven-inch with one song by each band. The Pyramids track “Phaedra’s Love” is everything that I came to expect of this band from the hype. Fusing divergent electro and ambient sounds with piano, gently whispered vocals, and possibly dulcimer, “Phaedra’s Love” is encompasses all my expectations.

The flip side of the seven-inch offers up the Horseback track “Thee Cult Of Henry Flynt.” The first two minutes and 30 seconds of this song are a blast of oozing, thrashing, vile black metal at its finest. The blazing guitars and guttural screamed vocals occupy most of the listener’s attention, but before vocals kick in, if you listen closely you can also hear piano chords matching the guitar chords at key moments, heightening the intensity. The blazing guitars fade into a fuzzy interlude that lasts several minutes before guitar, keyboards, and growled vocals return, carrying us to the end of the track. There is an ominous vibe to the closing riffs of this track, which perfectly set the tone for the LP.

The LP presents the collaboration itself. If the feeling of a slow descent into madness could be turned into music, Pyramids and Horseback have succeeded in capturing that feeling on this recording. The weird extremes of both bands mesh perfectly on the four tracks here. While the quantity of fuzz and white noise might be off-putting to non-noise aficionados, the subtle ambient vibe, the chiming sounds, and cryptic spoken word vocal parts succeed in drawing in the listener.

At one point in the second track, a haunting singing voice emerges from the waves of fuzz that have been washing over the listener, and what sounds like an electronic organ plays.  When the fuzz drops off suddenly, the organ and the singer remain, with the return of the spoken word vocals from earlier. It’s a subtle crescendo of sound, and feels to me like a climactic point in the album, but things are far from over. When the vocals fall away, the fuzz returns but darker and heavier. This dark, raw, and downright grim vibe pushes and drags the listener along into the final two tracks.

A Throne Without A King is a fascinating musical offering from two very powerful forces in experimental music. While it is not the record for everyone, it will earn a special place in the collections of those with an ear to appreciate it.

(Hydra Head Records, PO Box 291430, Los Angeles, CA 90029)

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