Review: goner. – A Hell for Horses (self-released, Nov 3)

This album is fucked. Filthy. Disgusting. Disturbing. Utterly unpleasant in all aspects. Anyone chomping at the bit after hearing those descriptors is the perfect audience for A Hell for Horses, the first full-length from Syracuse quartet goner., who here far surpass their early output and deliver something truly memorable. This is dirty, pus-encrusted metallic hardcore, occasionally leaning toward straightforward grind, sometimes galloping on a propulsive thrash chug, often breaking into slamming halftime with the high-pitched guitar squeals of modern metalcore. But this mess of genre assimilations doesn’t translate to a lack of focus or quality in the music itself, for every second of A Hell for Horses is smeared with the chunky Ragu blood of rotting horse corpses, the stinking visceral slop constantly dripping from the blasting assaults in the form of gritty effects sludge and decayed harsh noise currents. goner.’s effective and purposeful use of these unsettling motifs extends to the lyrics as well, and when I consider those in conjunction with the instrumentals, it’s impossible not to see this album as a spiritual successor to Gaza’s I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Diewhich also dealt heavily in themes of gore and violence both musically and lyrically (“Sire,” among others: “I’ll break your colt’s legs / I’ll snag and spill your deer on the fence / I’ll find your tears / I will corral you into the cattle hammer”). C.Z., the band’s vocalist and lyricist, also embodies a persona of someone who stumbles on the lowest level of humanity, leaning heavily into a shock-value satire that results in some twisted and darkly hilarious lines—”Cumsick”: “que laughter [sic] / i left a bag of dog hair at your door and i still cant pet you / i left my fingernails, i’ll scratch your back”—again both complementary to the intensity of the music and reminiscent of Jon Parkin’s most bleakly ironic howls (particularly in “A Hard Left on Burnett” and “Krokodil Tears”). I doubt anyone would look at the red-bathed mayhem on the cover and expect anything less than the musical equivalent of a captive bolt gun shot straight in the temple, but A Hell for Horses burrows so far into the blood-soaked trash bin of humanity that its brutality will most likely exceed any expectation.

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