You can sum up the music of Australian punk band Dark Horse in seven simple words: pure intensity, distilled to its rawest essence.
To be honest, I’m going to say a few more words than that about the band’s new Ideation EP, which Last Rites is chuffed to be premiering below. However, if you want to cut to the chase, know this: Dark Horse bombard those frustrations that plague modernity and our own lives with devastating blasts of uncompromising hardcore.
That’s what you want from full-bore underground punk, right? Something that’ll tear life’s catalog of woes to pieces. It doesn’t matter if those problems are philosophic or more tangible ones either; Dark Horse assail both with unbridled ferocity. Sure, a few incendiary songs probably aren’t going to solve all your problems. But Dark Horse’s music is deeply cathartic and anything sounds possible when they’re attacking the issues that thwart our existence.
Dark Horse recognize that there are hard yards to be won. We need to haul our collective asses out from in front of our screens. We need to make an effort. We need to fight. We need to do something—anything. That’s the kind of get-in-the-ring or GTFO approach that greets you on Ideation, and that same tireless stance fuels Dark Horse’s do-or-die / DIY attitude.
Musically, the band’s latest batch of bone-crunching tracks sees them continuing to hone their maelstrom mix of hardcore, crust, d-beat, and grindcore. If you need a few reference points, the echo of groups like Tragedy, Bolt Thrower, Disfear, Napalm Death, and Skitsystem is here, and Dark Horse weave those aesthetic influences into a harsh and jarring wall of noise.
Dark Horse’s 2013 full-length debut, Sick of the Living / High on Death, carved out a deafening niche. But the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Bomb Thrower, featured even more brutal and bitter barrages of crust-caked hardcore. Dark Horse have also released a few split releases here and there, and the band’s Live at Asakusa Deathfest 7″ (from 2018) is a riotous gem. The band has a couple more ear-splitting recordings due out later this year—one live cassette and another split tape—and they’re busy writing for their third full-length, which vocalist Dennis hopes they’ll record “by the end of the year or early 2020.”
In the meantime, Ideation is here to keep the blood of Dark Horse’s fans boiling. Lyrically, singer Dennis continues to “contemplate the potential of giving and/or denying freedom to the individual,” noting that “most of us are forever unable to escape these dynamics.” Dark Horse wrap that thorny dilemma in über-abrasive music and, as with all great lawless punk, they make a beautiful noise out of the ugliest ingredients.
Ideation kicks off with four hi-hat taps on “Under Distress,” then Dark Horse dive head-first into a mangling stew of metallic hardcore backed by throat-wrecking howls. They tear through the pulverizing follow-up, “You’re on the Spectrum,” which grinds even harder and barely passes the minute mark with hurtling riffs and concussive percussion operating at breakneck speed.
The title track is another impassioned / explosive punk-metal hybrid, featuring 47 seconds of tungsten-strength hardcore. And the EP’s final track, “Obstacle,” is a mini-epic, with galloping hardcore and heavyweight melodic crust aflame with incandescent rage. (FYI: Ideation sounds great too—thickset and sturdy, but still raw and bloody.)
The EP is a co-release between New Zealand label Sick World Records, French label Svoboda Records, and Australian labels Tasalco and DHHC Records, and 300 copies of the 7″ should be available around mid-May. Following that, Dark Horse are hitting Europe for a month-long tour in June / July, so if you’re based in that neck of the woods, keep an eye out. The band are an unstoppable force live on stage.
You can explore Dark Horse’s discography on Bandcamp, Spotify, and all the usual hip streaming services you youngsters love. And make sure to check out the full gist of Ideation above. The rampaging mix of hardcore, grindcore, and crust is perfect for slaying inner demons as well as all those big-city ogres.