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Stone Healer - "He Who Rides Immolated Horses" (CD/EP)

Stone Healer - "He Who Rides Immolated Horses" CD/EP cover image

"He Who Rides Immolated Horses" track listing:

1. He Who Rides Immolated Horses 08:30
2. Unconditional 08:18
3. The Scythe In My Heart 03:35
4. Lark's Head 09:49

Reviewed by on February 1, 2016

"The metal underground is a place full of musical surprises, and that's exactly what you get with the post-Autolatry project Stone Healer."

The metal underground is a place full of musical surprises, and that's exactly what you get with the post-Autolatry project Stone Healer. Although a “solo” band, there's plenty of guest musicians found on debut offering “He Who Rides Immolated Horses” all coming together to offer an experience that doesn't cleanly fit into a specific sub-genre.

This EP (which is really more of a full-length due to the song lengths) is incredibly creative and free flowing, mixing up different sounds and styles. The really low key, minimalist intro kicking off the title track lets you know you are in for something outside the norm right off the bat. An old school black metal vibe is frequently present (especially with the blast beating), but those elements are always layered over different sounds: clean singing, harsh yells, Viking style chants, melodic guitar work, and even unexpected female vocals.

While going through a roulette of vocal and guitar styles, the focus is usually on the atmosphere and getting across specific emotions and feelings, rather than being extremely heavy during the whole disc. Sudden sound and tempo changes pop up every few minutes, going from hard and heavy to emotive and progressive.

The EP is chaotic and noisy in parts, while more structured and nuanced in others. It's a nice balance, although the heavier parts tend to get repetitive and are less inspired, while the real goods are in the stylistic change-ups that happen several times during any given 9 minute song. Mashing together various styles rooted in black metal, while adding in a progress edge of course, will draw comparisons to Enslaved (or perhaps even Ihsahn), and the rougher sounds and lack of care for specific genre boundaries bring to mind elements of Skalmold.

For a bigger change in sound, the three minute interlude “The Scythe In My Heart” focuses on acoustic sounds. “He Who Rides Immolated Horses” ends with “Lark's Head,” a track that's just shy of 10 minutes. Here Stone Healer makes an odd choice to rehash the basic sound and structure of the first two tracks. For a progressive album that changes up styles frequently, this song somehow sticks to an established formula set by the earlier tracks.

Although there are flaws and the EP didn't manage to grab hold and force me to re-listen repeatedly, “He Who Rides Immolated Horses” does offer a sound you won't hear on many other metal releases. The mixing of styles makes for an interesting aural experience for anyone willing to go beyond the standard boundaries of black metal.

Highs: There's a very different sound here than what you typically get, focused more on atmosphere and emotion.

Lows: The black metal-focused elements aren't as compelling as the proggy bits, and the last song feels unnecessary

Bottom line: Black metal gets an atmospheric and progressive makeover with this post-Autolatry band.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)