Funeral Horse, Sinister Rites of the Master

Funeral Horse, <i>Sinister Rites of the Master</i>

Funeral Horse frontman/guitarist Paul Bearer, aka Paul Chavez, aka Walter Carlos, is something of an enigma to me. I’ve met the guy a few times over the years, live and electronically, and each time he’s been doing something seemingly completely different, sometimes using a different name, and every damn one of those things has been pretty great.

First there was the sadly-overlooked art-punk/New Wave trio Art Institute; then came along sleazy, gritty gutterpunks The Bad Drugs; and now, here we are with the stomping, stoner-metal-esque sludge-rock of Funeral Horse. Each one of those bands was totally off in a different direction from the rest, and yet, still managed to be excellent. (Oh, and through them all, he’s run one of the best record labels in town, Artificial Head Records.) I don’t get how he does it, but damn, it works.

This time around, with Funeral Horse’s debut full-length, Sinister Rites of the Master, Bearer/Chavez/Carlos and bandmates Jason Andy Argonauts (bass) and Chris Larmour (drums) blaze down a murky, dirty highway at night, drifting back and forth across the line between doom-y metal and straight-up, fuzzed-out rawk, drawing just what they need from each side while never getting stuck. Opener “Until the Last Nation” falls is heavy and massive like, say, ISIS or Omotai at points, but it’s still a punk/metal hybrid more than anything else, almost nearing Mudhoney/TAD territory in terms of heavy, noisy rock.

Then there’s “Amputate the Hands of Thieves,” which is faster and sharper-edged (appropriately), the guitars gouging away chunks of sound from inside your ears. It’s more on the metal side, at least from where I sit, bearing an odd resemblance to industrial-metal pioneers Prong with its “machine”-like feel, but that punk influence is definitely still in evidence. The same sort of thing goes for “Executioner of Kings,” which is awesomely pummeling and stutter-stomping, Larmour and Argonauts locked into a truly inescapable.

“Communist’s Blues,” for its part, veers a little bit off the track, all raggedy and murky, with odd samples buried deep in the background and some surprisingly soulful harmonica. Where things really take a different turn, though — and yes, it’s a welcome one — is on “I Hear the Devil Calling Me”. The band turns down for a minute-and-a-half or so, and rambles quietly through a jangly little countrified tune alongside guest vocalist Sarah Hirsch of fellow Houston rockers Jealous Creatures.

Now, I’m a big, big fan of Hirsch in general, so I was psyched to hear her vocals on the track, but even more so by the gorgeous, low-key, poignant feel of the whole thing. Hirsch’s voice lends the song a serious Cowboy Junkies vibe, and comes off powerfully, full of bitter resignation. It makes for a truly stellar break in the thundering noise that makes up the rest of Rites, and it stopped me in my tracks in the best way imaginable.

But hey, that can’t last, so Funeral Horse lunges back into the muck, roaring through “Stoned and Furious,” which is as dark and angry as the title suggests before closing the album out with a bass-heavy, slow-moving, psych-tinged cover of Rush’s “Working Man” that they pull off so damn well I nearly freaking forgot it wasn’t actually their song.

The whole time I’m listening, I find myself scrabbling and digging to come up with references to make these guys comprehensible, but it wasn’t ’til right there at the end that it truly hit me. They’re not metal, they’re not stoner-rock, they’re not anything that can really be labeled; they’re just a loud, raw, angry ball of fire that gets thrown out onto a stage every once in a while so it can explode. See what it sounds like when it does.

[Funeral Horse is playing its record release party 6/13/14 at Heights Vinyl.]
(Artificial Head Records --; Artificial Head Records (Bandcamp) --; Funeral Horse --; Funeral Horse (Bandcamp) --; Funeral Horse (ReverbNation) --
BUY ME: Bandcamp

Review by . Review posted Friday, June 13th, 2014. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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3 Responses to “Funeral Horse, Sinister Rites of the Master

  1. leia martin on June 18th, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Hey these guys turned me into a stoner chic! (Or whatever you want to call their style!) :D

  2. Anton on June 21st, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Awesome energy in their live shows!!!

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: The Swingin’ Dicks + Funeral Horse + Miami Dolphins + Cop Warmth + Jon Patrick + Adam Bricks + More on November 14th, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    […] like a great cross between Mudhoney sludge and Omotai heaviness. The band’s 2014 debut album Sinister Rites of the Master is excellent; definitely check it — and them — […]

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