Mose Giganticus - Gift Horse (Relapse Records)
By: Sara Heitman
[7/10] This is not a typical metal album. In fact, it is a stretch to call this "metal" at all. Others have described the genre of Gift Horse presented by Mose Giganticus as grunge metal, synth punk, electronic, and death metal. This also isn't a typical metal band. It is even a stretch to call Mose Giganticus a "band" at all! The style and sound of Mose Giganticus is created by the keyboardist/drummer/programmer/songwriter/vocalist Matt Garfield of West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Personally, anything that is outside of the box is favorable. So, when playing Gift Horse for the first time, a curiosity arose. A blend of synthesized sounds combined with electric guitar-themed music, create a mellow image with a rock energy. There is a quality comparable to the Berlin electronica sound. The majority of it is entertaining. I, the reviewer, have stepped out from behind the shadows of the music, and taken the liberty to coin the term "relaxation metal" as a new, softer branch of the genre to describe the album.
We begin Gift Horse with "Last Resort." An upbeat synth sound welcomes us, and brings to mind visions of a sunrise. It has a slow tempo with a Dream Theater essence, but heavier vocals. The vocals retain the same quality throughout the album, and at times can sound like players of a football team belting out team spirit. The combination of the melodic sound with the guitar riffs in "The Left Path" make for a catchy beginning of the track. The lyrics are simple and follow straight-forward patterns. One source states that the lyrics in Gift Horse are written from the perspective of the Christian god and the fallen angel, Lucifer, having a conversation. However, when the "football vocals" (another term I have coined for this album) are remindful of the chorus from Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping," it is hard to imagine they are based on a topic of such serious nature.
By the third track, "Demon Tusk," the uniqueness of the synth metal sound loses its luster. Everything starts sounding repetitive, and it gets difficult to establish the differences between each song. They do, however, become songs that one might find useful to help cure insomnia, or to play after the end of a sporting event or a movie as the masses begin shuffling out to their cars. Background music.
There are two tracks that stand out in this album. "White Horse," and the last track, "The Seventh Seal" both have memorable aspects. "White Horse" begins with a high-pitched keyboard melody which jumps around energetically and sounds like it is running a race. Then, the guitar comes in to run alongside it. The fast keyboard accompanied by the slower guitar musically creates the idea of "The Tortoise and the Hare." Some may find the bouncy keys to be annoying, but this is personally entertaining, because it continuously brings to mind the scene from the movie Revenge of the Nerds where the nerds perform the ultimate synthesized musical number and it blows everyone away!
"The Seventh Seal" seems to have the most variation. It is not a happy song, and presents slow, clean vocals. The sorrow, in my opinion, would have been conveyed more effectively with one solitary, heartfelt voice, instead of the use of layering again. There is even a short solo here! Though, it seems that it is almost too little, too late.
A gift horse is an apparent gift that has substantial, associated costs. Maybe that is how we are to treat this album. It is a gift. Take it or leave it, but if you choose to accept, don't criticize. Applause should go to Mr. Garfield for his ambition and drive to create this full-length album practically on his own. There are not many people who have that kind of motivation. Mose Giganticus has given us the gift of music, and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, Gift Horse has the ability to inspire our imagination.