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Review: Horseflies ‘These Halls Are Haunted ...

Review: Horseflies ‘These Halls Are Haunted Now’

Horseflies have made quite an impression in what has been a short space of time. Formed in April 2016, just 9 months ago, they’ve already played a number of shows, built an earnest following and here we are today with the release of their first single ‘Decaydream’ and the ep ‘These Halls Are Haunted Now’ to follow on February 6th. To back this up, they have been booking gigs across the country between now and April. They’re at Icebreaker Festival on 28th January and I urge you to attend. They’re a mixed bag of tricks. The members have contributed to the last 15 years of the Portsmouth music scene in various outfits including Attack! Vipers!, Deluxe Flamingos, Mannequin and Jets vs Sharks and I firmly believe it’s this experience, as well as their unruly thirst that has led to such a productive output. They talk passionately about what they create “Pop hooks blur into hardcore bluster, while punk rock grit bustles along with indie sensibilities. Influenced by everything from DC hardcore, horror soundtracks and 90’s slacker rock”. Needless to say I was excited to see how those raucous early gigs had transferred into studio recordings.

This album does strange things to me. From the first play, I found myself pacing around the front room, much to my neighbour’s concern. There’s an anxiety that animates the listener and it runs through the entirety in the itchy, high pitched guitar that scratches at you from different directions. Animal or demon, it feels good. That, combined with surging bass lines, venomous delivery of poignant vocals and sassy tantrum of the drums, the sound is both abusive and addictive.

The journey we find ourselves on is an unpredictable one. ‘Decaydream’, being the first single, needs particular mention. It’s the second track and it transcends both the album’s extremes of anxious hope and nihilistic assault. The bridge, only halfway through, brings the song into a descent of precise calculation. The album starts with a sense of optimism, however by ‘False Roses in Bloom’ we are on red alert. The music pulls us to and fro, a bi-polar, wave like motion, swaying and lurching before building to the joyful sound of ‘Cake Delivery’, albeit the lyrics “You fall apart at the seams” still alluding to the sense of dispair and submission. The communal, choral ending has such a surge of positivity that it could be a deliciously sweet note to finish on as a final track. Horseflies, however clearly have other ideas and have positioned it midway, serving as the calm before the storm. The sinister, lurking introduction to following ‘Fake Moon’ feels like something evil is watching through the floorboards and we are suddenly drawn away from the path of sunshine, onto the other path, an ominous one, lined by crow calls and dying trees.

I say this like a bad thing, and it’s really not. In fact, this kind of nervous build up into emotional explosion is a fundamental part of good music, because it captures and connects us in the frustrations of anxiety, hostility and downright fragile conditions of the modern mind. This wobbling, tightrope of the uncertain is a prominent feature. The tone changes again, and we are suddenly running, fleeing and breaking through branches, daring not to look over our shoulder.

We arrive at ‘Past Me, Present You’. The rim shots leading into this carry dirty guitar, building through plateaus of lucidity into a violent height of noise, of lashing out and fighting back.

The final farewell is ‘Snowflakes in an Avalanche’. The sadistic march of bass and drums and the eerie, falling slide of the guitar lends itself to War of the Worlds, with the vocals alluding to our more relatable fears “We are all torn between the neck tie and the noose”. I’ve found that a late night walk with headphones really brings the album into its own, and reveals the glory of its gritty, apocalyptic nature. The end is nigh, but hey, at least we’re in it together.

This album calls for submission and I am a willing host. I am helpless to its creeping infection that penetrates and animates, by bettering me, making me feel understood, even validated. Music thrives on connection. The angst ridden teenage years may have slipped away but the questioning is still there, the frustrations of the every day. To hear a home grown band making such well

composed, wild and almost sentient music concerned with our modern anxieties and existential dread has given me hope that all is not lost after all.

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Photos by Hannah Mesquitta


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