, November 23rd, 2016 13:07
Let me pitch you a screenplay - Denise Richards plays a sexy yet brilliant yet sexy genetic scientist who is hired by a shady government organisation to take part in a groundbreaking genome sequencing project. Wracked by doubts but convinced by curiosity, she is whisked away to a secret laboratory in New Mexico. There she discovers the true purpose of the project: to successfully extract DNA tissue from a preserved woolly mammoth carcass to bring its species back from extinction. After a healthy dose of exposition from a career-starved John Hurt, Denise and her team succeed in cloning a mammoth baby and for the next few years she raises it like the daughter she could never have.
Then one day a routine scan triggers a latent line of DNA coding (or something, I’m shady on the science) that makes it swell up to 20 times its original size and gain an insatiable appetite for destruction. The engorged mammoth breaks out of the facility and starts flattening whole swathes of downtown San Francisco (because Hollywood). There’s a heartbreaking finale in which Denise succeeds in taming the beast only for the US air force to mow it down Iron Giant style, but pretty much 90% of the film's runtime is the giant mammoth picking up school buses with its trunk and hurling them at helicopters. Sure, it might be a lowbrow schlockfest and would garner awful reviews, but it would absolutely kill it on the international box office and receive accolades for its inevitable but inspired soundtrack: Telepath by HORNSS.
Everything about this album is massive. From the moment ‘St. Genevere’s cymbals crash in like a tsunami to wash away any promise of subtlety, HORNSS go on to chug out nothing but unadulterated, city-obliterating fuzz. ‘In Fields Of Lyme’ effectively bodyslams the listener to the ground, only for ‘Prince of a Thousand Enemies’ and ‘Leaving Thermal’ to pummel them further into submission. The San Franciscan power trio have taken the Pentagram-indebted stoner doom of their debut No Blood, No Sympathy and built it up as high as they possibly can rather than choosing to expand outwards.
Your usual straightforward stoner metal album can struggle to maintain its listeners’ attentions for much longer than the half hour it takes them to roll a joint, smoke it down to the roach and argue about what to stick in the George Foreman grill (Black Sabbath sagely limited all their records to eight songs for this very reason). But Telepath manages to command your attention for longer than many of its more self-indulgent rivals. If anything the record feels like it finishes far too quickly, its songs’ brief runtimes belying their desert rock bulk. Much like the music of peers Red Fang or Black Cobra, HORNSS’s sound conveys a sense of urgency that is actively avoided by their doom metal contemporaries. Their propensity for writing short, sucker-punch songs stems from their love of Californian hardcore punk acts like Black Flag and Circle Jerks, both of who’s influence bleeds through the trio’s sound to an even greater extent than many of the more obvious Palm Desert scene comparisons (Fatso Jetson, Mondo Generator, Kyuss etc).
It could be argued that HORNSS’s commitment to one sound verges on the formulaic. But, as both Motörhead and AC/DC proved, a tendency to rewrite the same song over and over again doesn’t have to be treated as a problem. Just, you know, make sure it’s a damn good song. There is no shortage of bands in the overcrowded field of stoner rock clamouring for attention, many of them venturing further and further into the realms of prog and noise in a bid to strike upon a more impressive sound. By comparison HORNSS, despite the compulsory capitalisation of their name, are refreshingly free of pretension. Experimentation and evolution might be essential qualities in a forward-looking band, but HORNSS seem only to gaze ever upwards to judge just how high they can reach. After all, with a sound this colossal the echoes they leave will be triggering avalanches long into the next ice age.