PALE HORSEMAN, the Chicago doom/sludge/death metal hybrid, have unleashed their latest studio album, The Fourth Seal, to the masses. Incorporating some of metal’s darkest and crushing styles into one can be no easy task, yet PALE HORSEMAN have been working on this blend of styles for some time, with each release becoming tighter. This time around, PALE HORSEMAN worked with Dennis Pleckham of BONGRIPPER to create their new album, which gives us high hopes indeed. We gave The Fourth Seal a listen to see how new drummer Jason Schryver performs on the record, and how it fares compared to the band’s previous releases.
Off to a powerful and heavy start, Final War blasts into your ears as a strong death metal-inspired opener to the record. The almost slam-like riffs from Eric Ondo and Andre Almaraz, while still maintaining a strong doom feel over harsh vocals is quite an intriguing prospect, and PALE HORSEMAN pull it off well. Witches Will Gather is where the sludge crawls into The Fourth Seal, and is when PALE HORSEMAN’s new record really begins to start shining. Aokigahara is by far the most captivating track on the record; with winding, slow riffs over PALE HORSEMAN’s trademark vocals, and an interesting break in the middle of the track where a single guitar supported by soft drums from Jason appears almost out of nowhere. Building up in power as the rest of the band chime in before exploding back into a heavy doom front, it really draws you in and makes you appreciate the improvement in musicianship and song-writing that PALE HORSEMAN have undergone over the period of time since their previous release.
What’s incredibly appealing about The Fourth Seal is the diversity of styles within the record. Tyrant is without doubt one of the standout tracks on the record, with its heavy death-metal influenced intro before transforming into a more sludge and doom piece. Dual guitars and vocals from Eric Ondo and Andre Almaraz also add a lot to the appeal of PALE HORSEMAN, and just as much diversity, which works brilliantly on this record. Gnashing Of Teeth, while being a solid and relatively enjoyable track, doesn’t seem quite to make much impact on the record or add anything new. Phantasmal Voice ends the record, and is a very redeeming factor of the album. Opening rather ominously and bringing plenty of doom to the table, it’s a strong closer. New drummer Jason Schryver shows some of his best work in this track, as he supports the chest-crushing bass from Rich Cygan and heavy riffs.
The Fourth Seal is an excellent continuation of PALE HORSEMAN’s sound, which is becoming more unique with every release. Their balance of styles such as death, doom, and sludge, either combined together in a track or a genre almost having a standalone section, it works well. Becoming darker and more crushing (no doubt partially due to the help of Dennis Pleckham from BONGRIPPER), it’s arguably PALE HORSEMAN’s strongest effort yet.
The Fourth Seal is out now via Black Bow Records.
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