Confused? Join the club. That is how HORSE the Band's The Mechanical Hand introduces itself to the unsuspecting listener. It is a bizarre mix of hardcore, metalcore, emo, and nintendo synth that will burn itself into your brain. It is unlike anything I have heard before, although I hear touches of Metroid, Mastodon, Frank Zappa, and Fantomas mixed in with the absolute zaniness that becomes the defining factor for the band.
Whether or not you think this is any good, you will decide right away whether or not this is for you. It is abundantly clear this album is not for everyone, nor should it be. Music shouldn't be about the masses, rather going where your heart and/or mind and/or emotions, or whatever shall lead you, and it is very clear that this assemblage of post-hardcore oddballs are going in their own direction with little regard of what you may or may not think of them.
HORSE the Band is the type of band that will send the majority of people into one of two categories. The first group will hear the cry of "Eggs" combined with staccato guitar crunch, in your face drums, 8 bit synths, and the screamed vocals and immediately run for the exit, or make haste in hitting the stop button of their CD player or iPod. The other main group will here ingenious layering of sounds into an inventive post-hardcore soundscape of Nintendo based fury and will swear their allegiance to the HORSE, swearing to follow the mad poet on the mic to the ends of the Earth and into the beyond. Those left will fit into a final smaller group that will initially be repulsed by what they hear, but be open minded enough to give it a full listen. They will find themselves intriugued by the sound and will let nature take its course as the music either draws them into the fringe of fandom, or drive them away to a state of indifference as the wander onto thte next thing that temporarily captures their attention.
I fall into that third category of the intrigued outsider who is leaning toward the fandom fringe. I have to admit that the music is definitely intriguing. It borders on noise at times, but there is a very interesting layering of sounds, the composition seems haphazard at times, but the more I listen, the more I believe there is more purpose to it than meets the ear. What I mean is sometimes a band will make music that is unfocused, it sounds that way, even if it is unintentional, a good example of this would be the first Slipknot album. That album had some good tracks on it, but the band needed someone to focus their energies, that eventually led to Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses, which features that band at the top of their game, the same music as what they did earlier, but with greater focus, but still coul dbe labeled in the noise category. Listen to The Mechanical Hand and you will here method to the madness.
Is HORSE the greatest band to try something different? No, but they are trying something different. From the crazines of "Birdo" to the Nintendo-epic sounds of "Soaring Quails" and "Taken by Vultures" to the spasms of "Manateen" this is a band that is doing something different, for better or worse. They have a sense of humor and a collection of influences that have them standing astride the mainstream.
Are they great musicians? Not particularly, but this is a band that is more than the sum of its parts. Taken individually, I am sure each member has a good degree of talent, but this is a band that is about the final project, each player bringing something to the table, not a round table, but one of an irregular, undefinable shape. It all belongs to the family of tables, but is not strictly defined as one, such is the music, it is a member of the music family, but it is pushing at the boundaries and into something else.
Bottomline. Great album? No. What The Mecahnical Hand is, is an intriguing experiment. I like, not love, it. It does broaden the scope of the post hardcore world beyond the plethora of imitation screamo acts that keep multiplying these days. If you are the adventurous type, and this sounds even remotely interesting, put on your retro-Mario t-shirt, grab this CD and join the growing legions of HORSE listeners. I gurantee you will react to it, just not going to promise how.