Jenks Miller is back and he has flipped the script again. While I am sure many will call “Dead Ringers” a “change in direction” for Horseback, that would imply that Miller (the man behind Horseback) has had the same direction throughout. Horseback have veered from drone to black metal to psych rock and back again. While I think “Half Blood” (the last album) was their best to date, that may have changed with this release.
“Dead Ringers” eschews the black metal vocals for completely clean vocals that better support the overall sound which is decidedly more synthetic and more like something Tame Impala would do if they went on a weekend in the woods of North Carolina. That’s not to say that Miller has stopped sounding like Horseback. “Dead Ringers” just sounds like another side of the same coin. “Dead Ringers” is like high noon psychedelia whilst “Half Blood” is midnight black metal boogie. No one else would even attempt either, so they both are distinctly Horseback.
Why is “Dead Ringers” so good? It has some really good songs. That might not seem to say very much but I wouldn’t consider Miller a “songwriter” as much as someone who sets a mood. This is a different approach. Songs like “Modern Pull” and “A Bolt from Blue” are really good, dare I say, bright sounding songs. But they are strange enough from an arrangement stand point that no one will think Miller has gone pop.
And Miller has not ditched his fondness for drone as evident on “The Cord Itself.” Then you have the massive closer “Descended from the Crown” which is as experimental as anything he has done. I don’t know if I like the looped samples that sound like clanging metal but it does keep a rhythm for a track that is relatively void of it.
“Dead Ringers” is very creative and shows that Jenks Miller isn’t going to stop exploring. I think just the switch to clean vocals will mean more people might be willing to check out Horseback. Sadly, many people still can’t handle harsh vocals. But there’s still plenty of reasons on “Dead Ringers” that people should not think that Jenks Miller isn’t a mad scientist.
1. Modern Pull
2. Shape of the One Thing 05:11
3. A Bolt from Blue
4. The Cord Itself
5. Lion Killer
6. In Another Time, In and Out of Form
8. Descended from the Crown