25th March 2016 – Ritual Productions
04. New Dawn
05. Beast of Waste and Desolation
With more bands adopting extended-range guitars, it takes a band like Horse Latitudes to remind us of the thunderous power of the bass guitar. Horse Latitudes would be heavy regardless, but realised with two basses, new album Primal Gnosis is devastating. Critically, the risks they’ve taken here have set them apart from their peers without coming across as frivolous or novelty.
The band have drifted pretty far from their earlier material. Where previously they had a focus on twin-bass doom tracks with recognisable structures like Sea of Saturn, here they drift into all-out dronescapes and on first track “Incantation” they engage with something approaching a full wall of noise. Following on from the 20-minute opener, Primal Gnosis continues a similarly noisy, sinister theme with some deviations, such as the more twinkly intro to “Emergence“. The twin-bass sludge sound hits a particular high at the climax of “New Dawn“, which ends its assault with a scathing synth blast. The electronic elements are particularly well-placed and round out the doomier sections very well; this is an album with a lot of free space, but crucially it never feels empty.
Doom and drone music of this kind is gloriously oblique. Case in point: I once saw Horse Latitudes perform a set to fifty people at thunderous volume in a crypt. Clearly this has struck a chord with a lot of extreme music fans, as is evident from the resurgence in later years. However, it is the doom sensibilities that set Primal Gnosis apart from its peers. The flourishes that add substance to the dronescapes and structure to some of the later material define the album’s sound. This isn’t an architectural album and makes a point to sound under-produced; some of the drum fills feel a little off occasionally. As such the record sounds authentically bleak and raw and often sounds like a collapsing temple; a visual reinforced by track titles such as “Incantation” and the chant-like vocals throughout.
Primal Gnosis does not solely rely on the fierce, raw sound to carry the bleak message however: it crackles with ideas – the percussive bells in the first song and the intermittent chanting are especially well-realised – and the band’s dual-bass setup sounds remarkably clear through a throaty mix. Rare moments of melody benefit greatly from the weight of the bass that wouldn’t be present played on a guitar. The setup threatens to be a gimmick, but this album is all about well-calculated risks and pulls them off every time.
Primal Gnosis is nasty. It’s for people who go to Temples Festival and who are looking for drone-doom with a particularly harsh edge – for people whose interest in the genre may have waned. Where Primal Gnosis takes risks it is rewarded greatly; everywhere else it’s solid, gnarly work. To be best enjoyed underground, surrounded by corpses.