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Soft As Butter, Hard As Ice Toby Cook , June 23rd, 2011 09:56

If you've ever had the pleasure of walking down Peckham high street on a rain soaked, winter afternoon and needed to dodge the group of locals arguing over a piece of fried chicken while attempting to ignore the half-pissed individual that seems hell-bent on waving his cock around in Wetherspoons you'll know that, to all intents and purposes, south London is most definitely not a place where 'dreams are allowed to breathe'. Yet you will though be one step closer to understanding what Palehorse are all about.

While on the surface Palehorse's sound might best be liked to that of the originators of atmospheric post-metal Neurosis if you caught them playing Iron Monkey songs slowed to the pace of a London bus in a tar pit, such is the pervading sense of total, abject frustration that you'll feel sick. You can title a track 'South London, Where Dreams Are Allowed To Breathe' if you want, for it sounds kind of funny and might be seen as wittily sarcastic enough to force a smile, but try and really listen to that track, to the way the opening words "I want blood to bleed from my nose / I want tears to fall from my eyes" are spat out with half the contents of the average gall bladder; tears of a clown and all that kind of tragic funny man shit doesn't even get you half way there.

Yet Soft As Butter; Hard As Ice is not all about throat shredding dirges, and there can be few, if any bands around that not only dispense with guitar players altogether, yet also utilise two basses to such diverse and devastating effect. Frankly, it's remarkable just how well the band have captured not only a enveloping, almost fuzzy warmth, but also a rigid, angular barrier of doom-hued riffs. 'I Wish We Could Go Back And Do All This Again' brings to mind the misery and industrial-esque strains of early Swans, yet with the convulsive nature of the riffing involved, would easily compliment the subconjunctival haemorrhaging instrumental doom/drone of Bongripper.

At times the limitations – self imposed or otherwise – of having little else but two basses and drums to build your entire sound from becomes more glaringly apparent than is totally necessary. The repetitive, almost funk-affected, walking bass line of 'Fill Your Ears With Wax', for example, lurches in to its faintly anti-climactic crescendo, rather than exploding in the way you hoped it would.

But fear not, since pressing Soft As... on to wax, Palehorse have expanded their ranks to include a member charged simply with 'noise', and as such you could do worse things (such as going to Peckham for a pint in an Wetherspoons) than to catch the current incarnation of the group live, if only for the harrowing experience of hearing all those moments of relative tranquillity infused with noises that sound like pigs being forced to smoke.