Empty Body — the latest LP from the New Zealand-based rock group Spook the Horses — feels absolutely thrilling.
On this latest album from the group, they’ve presented invitingly familiar heavy rock instrumentation-based jams, and there’s something hypnotically fresh-feeling about the band’s style. While just about never letting go of a rather electric core of energy, Spook the Horses travel through rich dynamics, extending their melodies on and on, in a style that feels structurally similar to post-rock. There isn’t any sort of overwhelming sense of verse-chorus-verse song structure here — the tracks seem more sprawling than the confines of that tradition, and the life-like vibrancy that runs through the album makes it feel ready-made for repeated listens.
Digging into the bulk of the music, Empty Body is truly quite heavy. The album feels like it carries the weight of a rockslide, and the propulsive melodies make the listening experience feel a bit like just barely hanging on as those chunks of some crumbling mountain menacingly roll on by. The vocals are roars, and the basslines that pop up prominently on songs like “Cell Death” feel staggeringly guttural. The drum rhythms frequently feel prominent and seem like they’re lighting the path of a metaphorical nighttime hike through treacherous terrain that the album musically encapsulates. That sense feels especially poignant on “Counting Days on Bone,” where powerfully churning drum rhythms lead into heavy volleys of hits from the other instruments. Frequently, the guitar riffing itself feels rather physically oppressive, like it’s a perfectly interwoven part of a collage of fireworks that never stop blasting overhead during a treacherous nighttime excursion, to continue with an earlier metaphor.
The band consistently have a rather richly full sound, likely due in part to their status as a six-piece — moments like the particularly tumultuous track “Writhing” spotlight this element. Spook the Horses feel somewhat reminiscent of bands like Cult of Luna on Empty Body — just, with elements like more rock-style melody thrown in. Songs like the restrained “Watermark” and “Apology Rot” (the longest song on the record) bring this post-metal and post-rock orientation into the spotlight. The gut-rattlingly heavy (although definitely not unbreathable) rhythms build throughout “Apology Rot,” which clocks in at just over seven minutes. A similar vibe re-appears on the album’s closing track, “Inheritance.”
Overall, via their super solid, melody-driven songwriting, Spook the Horses feel like they’ve brought some of the grandiosity of heavy post-rock and post-metal strikingly close to the chest on Empty Body. It’s a rather unforgettable-feeling close encounter with potentially earth-rattling tumult.
Empty Body is available now via Pelagic Records. Listen below!