Luckily for fans, and in loving memory of Pete Steele, original Type-O drummer Sal Abruscato (Up until 1993) wasn’t long in allowing this new source of mourning and melancholia to fuel his creative juices once more, and stepping aside from his other band LIFE OF AGONY, he formed A PALE HORSE NAMED DEATH in 2011. With their first two albums (“And Hell Will Follow Me” and “Lay My Soul To Waste”) receiving praise and critical acclaim, it’s only natural we get excited to know that the third, despite the five year gap, was still on the way. In early 2019, they returned with “When The World Becomes Undone”…let’s see what Sal and co have been sitting on all this time…
The album begins rather fittingly with “As It Begins” and really it’s just a brief intro piece; the church bells, the weeping woman, a continuous, haunting drone…it’s really quite ominous as it seemingly sets you up for a ritual, or, something far worse and sinister, but the transition into the title track is a little disjointed. It lacks a clean flow as it switches up into this, chilling piano led piece, while Sal’s lyrical delivery and vocal tone hints at a disturbing, nursery rhyme-inspired track. The percussion initially seems stuck on a loop, with little in the way of tonal progression, like the CD was skipping, if it wasn’t for the subtlety of the bass, before we eventually get underway with some classic sounding, deep, dragging riffs. At near seven minutes it keeps in tradition with the drawn-out doom metal influences, but there are a few tempo and key changes to keep it ticking over, improving as it progresses.
It’s not all ENTIRELY doom and gloom mind you, as there’s still room for a tune or two amidst the misery. “Love The Ones You Hate” being a prime example…the classic guitar slides, the almost “My Girlfriends Girlfriend”-esque delivery harking back to classic Type-O, adding both hooks and tempo to proceedings. While not the most melodic of vocalists, the whole thing takes on an almost grunge-like yet, hypnotic tone, thanks to Sal’s musical direction, and it makes for a clear album highlight. The same can be said for “Lay With The Wicked”, “Fell In My Hole” and “We All Break Down”…the former with its darkly sensual opening, embracing the seductive yet, again, haunting aesthetics of the deep harmonies. A slick guitar solo makes for an even more emotive listen and it reeks of gothic lust, while the latter maintains the low-tempo, dreary appeal of classic doom-inspired goth, with more subtle nods to “October Rust” musically as we head towards the tracks climax.
Granted, it’s not a perfect album…”Succumbing To The Event Horizon” is only marginally longer than its own name; no more than a brief instrumental interlude in the loosest possible sense, while “The Woods”, which despite being longer, doesn’t have much more of a point, though conceptually you could say it harks back to the tribal tones of “Fay Wray Come Out And Play”, before closing track “Closure” returns to the church bells, weeping and organ music as the album goes full circle. All in all, we have to accept that there’s only so much you can get from a doom-based record in terms of appeal, and in a world without Pete Steele this will always have to be your next best choice. Both sonically and aesthetically on point, APHND and Sal deliver a fine slab of sadness here as they’ve clearly found themselves musically; this is more polished, crisp and cathartic too as it provides respectful throwbacks to Sal’s formative years with Type-O-Negative. In a world of post-metalcore, mumble-rap and grime, it’s refreshing (Or should that ironically be rotten?) to find there’s still a place for such wonderfully presented woe…a great gothic-metal album and a great start to 2019.