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03. Days Grow Cold
04. Red Horse
05. Apocalyptic Nights
06. Death Obsessed
07. Pure Hell
Since late 2010, the members of Early Graves have been in a rebuilding process (this after the life of vocalist Makh Daniels was cut short due to a horrific van accident). There was a period of mourning and reflection on their future, leading to the point where the rational solution is to pick one's self up and focus on the music. Early Graves took their time, enlisted the help of The Funeral Pyre vocalist John Strachan, and got working on their third album. The finished product, Red Horse, is a songwriting powerhouse that is only hindered by the raw production.
The death of Daniels weighs on the album, from the lyrics of pain and loss to the band's anger on "Misery" and "Pure Hell." Early Graves has been a band known for their ferocity since they formed, but it's never felt as personal and bitter as it does on Red Horse. It's like the band sat in a room, got shit-faced on cheap beer, and just wrote and wrote until their hands were bleeding from hitting their instruments too hard. Then, when that was done, they reconvened in a recording studio for a week and laid out all the tracks without coming up for air.
Though their metallic hardcore-meets Slayer worship-meets blackened fury has become more visceral, their melodic side forces its way onto the album more so than any other previous album. "Skinwalker" starts the record off with a single clean guitar, which builds up to its breaking point thanks to relentless work from drummer Dan Sneddon. "Days Grow Cold" treads upon a poisonous attitude and mind-numbing brutality before cutting away to a heart-breaking acoustic outro. In an album as harsh as Red Horse, this reprise stands out.
Early Graves has stepped up their instrumental craft as well as the songwriting, with the guitar solos and leads being the most apparent leap ahead. There are stellar guitar-driven sections throughout the album, including the "Days Grow Cold" ending mentioned in the last paragraph. A sparse riff in the middle of "Death Obsessed" is a highlight, but everything seems to lead right to closer "Quietus." Not only is it the longest song on the album at six minutes, but over half the track is dedicated to guitarists Chris Brock and Tyler Jensen harmonizing and finishing out the album with a soulful twang.
Red Horse is an outlet for the remaining members of Early Graves to let out all the emotions they came across dealing with the tragedy that almost shut them down. It's less polished than their past two albums, and that does deviate from the progression the band has made since Goner. The memory of Makh Daniels lives throughout the album, and though Strachan has a different vocal style (though he does a fine job considering the circumstances), you could imagine Daniels fitting right in. Every band reacts to the death of a member in different ways, and Early Graves used it to write their strongest album to date.
Bottom Line: The rough production values aside, Red Horse is a somber and vicious affair that feels like an outlet for the band to express themselves after a personal tragedy.
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