In the Nursery

Stormhorse

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Right from the opening notes, as synth strings swirl to begin "Tempest," the Humberstones serve notice that they have made the next step forward with their music, and a striking step it is. Though soon outstripped by following releases in artistic terms, in many ways Stormhorse remains the crucial album of ITN's early years, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the band's musical approach -- electronic orchestration supplemented by a further variety of keyboards and piano -- has remained essentially unchanged from this album forward, becoming even more involved and subtle with the years and the increasing pace of technology, but still quite powerful and beautiful in its initial stages here. Second, two side members who have remained with the band in one fashion or another first appeared on this album -- female vocalist Dolores C. Marguerite, possessed of a quietly powerful soprano voice, and Q, who exclusively plays military snare drums for the band, and does so excellently, with precise, careful fills and extended drum rolls building to climactic moments. Finally, the oft-commented sense of ITN's music as "cinematic" truly begins here; while hard to capture in words, the symphonic/industrial feeling of Stormhorse lends itself to backing music for a dramatic epic. Certainly it's no accident that the credits refer to the album as being the "original soundtrack to the [nonexistent] film." While few tracks stand out on their own, as a whole Stormhorse sets and maintains its lush, portentous mood throughout. It's all the more fascinating to realize that the Humberstones have no formal classical training; the opportunities created by technological advances to create whole worlds of sound have been enthusiastically pursued by the band from the start, and especially from this album on.

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