Black Math Horseman astonished the underground with their 2009 debut record, Wyllt. No other music collective sounded like this – mystical, transcendent, troubled, unsettled, beautiful. How could a band with only traditional rock instruments produce something so charismatic and dark without using conventional structures or orthodox vocals? Frontwoman, Sera Timms, is like a modern-day Siouxsie Sioux with no trail of peers but a long list of curious onlookers who wonder how she brings her music to life with such a ghostly projection. Most of you will know her as the singer and bassist of Ides of Gemini and as a regular guest vocalist for New York black metal giants, Tombs. Now, Black Math Horseman are back with their original line-up and a new song of twenty-five minutes split into four chapters. Is it an EP or an album? Er… Who cares when their art is as captivating as this?
Who is the black math horseman? He is a great adversary of unlimited manipulative powers who represents the darkness you cannot avoid in the game of life. You wouldn’t know that from the unpublished lyrics or the distant haze of Timms’ voice. This is music that demands your own rationalisation with only a distant light to guide you through the shroud of fog ahead. The title track (or first chapter) is an expert blend of ambient low-end noise signals and prowling tom drum patterns enhanced by intricate volume swells. A latent strain of aggression waits like a bird of prey, hoping to swoop on its target when the time is right. Imagine the fast alt-picking tremolos in the hands of Killing Joke or even the early U2 records but with the might of Tool’s Adam Jones, and you have something approaching a comparison. Of course, there is no comparison for this music. Your instinct pivots towards shoegaze, but the luscious patterns fall under the weight of the tense tom drums and apprehensive rhythms. Likewise, the illusion of post-rock cracks underneath the neo-thrash metal plectrum action, yet the excess reverb and atmospheric layers are more post-punk than metal.
The band say they reconvened in 2018 with no idea how they created their debut record or if they would even remember how to do so. But a force greater than their logical selves allowed them to carry on where they left off without explanation or a scientific reason. This is why you need to let the anxious cadences of the music control your body like a virus waiting to be expunged for good. Black Math Horseman could sparkle with golden grace, but they choose to operate at the periphery of the discordant and melodious textures on ‘Boar Domane’. Waterfalls and night owls appear before your eyes as the guitarists explore simple arpeggios through the prism of The Cure and Swans. It’s always dark and foreboding and willing to work towards extraordinary peaks of tension. Listen how the guitarists step on the distortion at the end while the drums fester in anxiety like Tool’s classic Aenema record.
All four members have a background in post-metal and atmospheric rock, and you can hear both on ‘The Bough’. You’ll recognise a kinship with Swedish experimentalists, Blodet, and might even make a connection to the avant-garde doom of Italian quartet, Messa. But Black Math Horseman inhabit a lonely world of their own. Substitute Timms’ incantations of voice towards the end and this could be a throbbing piece of Neurosis at their most agitated. The final chapter, ‘Cypher’, can take you to the domain between sleep and lucidity if you agree to be hypnotised. If not, you can concentrate on the shamanic, wide-eyed enigma of Timms’ sultry voice to keep you focused. Let her talk to you like a sage trapped in the walls, who can never be freed but can always offer you hope that you might one day join her among the graceful undead.
Might we get a follow up to this imaginative piece of ethereal art in the future? Maybe not, but this is a magnificent way to announce your return and to nail down your future legacy.
Release Date: 21/10/2022
Record Label: Profound Lore
Standout tracks: Black Moth Horseman, The Bough
Suggested Further Listening: Messa – Close (2022), Tool – Aenema (1996), GGGOLDDD – This Shame Should Not Be Mine (2022)