Dead Horse are a name often referenced in the Texas metal underground but are virtually unknown outside of the Lone Star State (although Swedish death metal gods Entombed did cover Dead Horse’s “Scottish Hell”, your mileage will vary on the quality). Their first demo, “Death Rides a Dead Horse” is a very unique piece of death metal-influenced thrash that contains everything from punk beats, incredibly fast riffs, lead bass parts, and humor-filled lyrics, so anyone interested in the underground Texas metal scene of the late ’80’s/early ’90’s should check this demo out.
Dead Horse were also one of the few extreme metal acts to take a comedic slant to their music without coming off as annoying, which is a relief since “comedy metal bands” were all over the place in the early nineties, and rarely were they any good. It’s not as obvious on this demo as opposed to the full-length album “Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That’s Time Comsuming”, but the humor is there. Tracks like “Bewah”, with the comically redundant lyrics “Early in my youth, when I was young, just a little kid wanting to have fun” will have listeners chuckling while banging their heads, which is no easy task. The best part is that the lyrics, while goofy, are delivered by a raspy, throaty bark that allow the lyrical to not be over-the-top. In fact, the juxtaposition between serious vocal stylings and comical lyrics works so well that if a “goofier” style was used, the songs would be stripped away of much of their enjoy ability.
Although the first couple of songs whiz by like a whirlwind, whenever the band slows things down, the result is something crushingly heavy that shows that Dead Horse were no (excuse the absolutely awful pun) one-trick pony, such as in “Scottish Hell”. The intro to “Bewah” contains a slow drum jam accompanied by some delayed guitar playing, and it definitely sounds interesting. However, few would deny that Dead Horse were best whenever they were playing fast, and tracks like “Army Surplus” prove to be the best on the demo. The aforementioned throaty bark is utilized most effectively in this track, as the vocal style fits the “bombs are falling, government is corrupt, etc.” nature of the lyrics quite well. The drum beats are incredibly fast, delivering punk-like beats without crossing over into full-on blast beat territory, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The production on “Death Rides a Pale Horse” is quite good, and all the instruments can be clearly be heard, especially the bass guitar, which is allowed quite a few fretboard gymnastics which should impress those who gravitate towards the low end of the sonic spectrum. “World War Whatever” (which also contains riffs in the middle that sounds an awful lot like Morbid Saint’s “Assassin”) is probably the best example, where the bassist plays a neat ascending lick right before the rest of the band launches into a devastatingly fast section complete with lots of tremolo picking. This type of bass playing was rarely featured among underground death/thrash acts of the time, so it’s quite refreshing to hear. The guitar tone is excellent, and features just the right amount of distortion, to where the palm-muted chunk of the riffs is substantially improved.
This demo only contained six songs and ran for eleven minutes, but it’s the perfect length for extreme metal demo aficionados, as quite a few demos of the day ran for a similar length. The demo in its original form will be impossible to track down, but Dead Horse albums should be available at San Antonio’s Hogwild Records, and if not, asking the store to order you a copy of one of Dead Horse’s albums would likely yield positive results (and if not, they’ll at least give you a high-five for taking an interest in fine underground Texas metal). Whatever way you acquire the music of Dead Horse, you’re in for a real treat, because there truly was no other extreme metal band like them.
For more info: Dead Horse has been defunct for years, but quite a few of their members play in Pasadena Napalm Division, along with D.R.I.’s Kurt Brecht, so Dead Horse fans in San Antonio (and elsewhere) would be wise to check them out. Lucky for those interested, the entire demo is available on YouTube, so get thee to listening!