The Back Horn


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Pulse confirms that Back Horn is a band that's got some talent, but can't consistently make it work. The group's previous, eponymous album was a nice but bland affair with too much filler for its own good; its follow-up has a clear identity, but suffers from biting off more that it can chew. In this particular case, Back Horn tried to mix '80s influence -- a sine qua non in Japanese mainstream music, here drawn from the heavy metal of Queensr├┐che and the punk of Bad Religion rather than new wave -- with the jangly sound of post-punk and alt rock (think Shellac or Trail of Dead), as well as attempting to make their melodies disquieting and dramatic. However, instead of dynamic and dramatic they got convoluted and overblown, as the opener "Sekai Wo Ute" readily demonstrates: it sounds as if the band wasn't sure what feeling they wanted to convey, and so they ripped through several riffs that came to mind first as fast as they could. In some cases, namely "Freude" and the cabaret-tinged "Byakuya," it works, but it's a rare thing on Pulse, although that doesn't mean that Back Horn can't deliver a strong track -- see, for instance, "Kakusei" or "Hotaru." The point is, those songs don't try to get away from the typical J-rock paradigm -- it's the same kind of melodic arena rock with good guitar licks that can be heard on quite a number of anime opening/closing sequences. Sometimes, both approaches are mixed within the same song, such as "Sazameku Highway" with its gothic rock verse melodies and hackneyed, over-the-top chorus. All in all, it's nice to see the band attempting to challenge themselves stylistically, but, from a listener's point of view, sticking to their strengths would've been a more satisfying decision.

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