Horseback is the singular vision and nearly singular execution of North Carolina songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jenks Miller. The Invisible Mountain is the project’s second full-length, and it should create a good amount of interest in Miller’s past releases, both solo and under the Horseback moniker. Although the album provides a well-balanced mix of drone, krautrock, post-metal, black metal, and soundscape lushness, in truth a genre dissection is pointless, as this amalgamated sound is just meant to be taken in. Constantly enjoyable and occasionally quite brilliant, it makes an easy recommendation to just about anyone who doesn’t mind inviting some black metal vocals to their musical R&R session.
The Invisible Mountain is essentially presented in three parts over four tracks, with the hypnotic duo of “Invokation” and “Tyrant Symmetry” starting things off. A flip-flopped musical balance buries the blackened vocals and places repetitive and trance-like music above that, rendering the active drumming the most discernable element. The cycling riffs and chords present in these two songs bring to mind modern Earth with their blended use of guitar, piano, and occasional organ, but the heavier drumming, vocals, and understated solos place these tracks into a different, albeit equally relaxing, listening experience. Neither track is earth-shatteringly profound in scope or structure, but together they make up an enjoyable first act.
The title track, however, is profound. The main twanging riff (and all that follow) is a brilliant example of psychedelic metal that I dare any of you to remove from your brainwaves after experiencing. The song is like a krautrock jam written by an American Deep South incarnation of Varg Vikernes who also happens to be obsessed with psychedelia. While the drums maintain a largely consistent intensity, elements such as organs and dissonant chords help the song to swell and develop in a nearly post-rock fashion, as sections of vocals and simplistic lead guitars move in and out of the plains. As any true album centerpiece should, it justifies the music that precedes it and anchors that which follows.
The album’s third act is the lengthy ambient piece “Hatecloud Dissolving Into Nothing,” which succeeds in being far less space-filler than most album-closing tracks of its nature. Over nearly 17 minutes can be heard a subtle song progression that, while possibly going on a bit too long, certainly succeeds in giving The Invisible Mountain the serene ending that Miller undoubtedly intended. The snail’s-pace song changes wouldn’t be as noticeable without the lush and layered production, a quality that benefits each of these four tracks in unique ways.
If The Invisible Mountain does one thing wrong, it is that most of the album’s 38 minutes are merely quite enjoyable, with the title track being the only true classic on board here. As it exists it is easily amongst the more entrancing and hypnotic metal(ish) albums of 2010, perfect for fans seeking a musical experience that is a tad more song-oriented than Earth and far less grim than your typical anesthetic black metal. But if Miller could pen a Horseback album that is all as enthralling as this one’s title track? Well, that would be quite a thing to hear.