The Live Long After by Sugar HorseRelease date: August 27, 2021
Label: Small Pond Recordings
A weird long shot but I think I can link Bristolian quintet Sugar Horse and Forrest Gump, or at least his Mum. The famous quote “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” becomes strangely relevant when hitting play on any Sugar Horse release. In its previous EPs and singles the band has tackled shoegaze, heavy rock, post-metal, post-rock, and gloom amongst others; sometimes in one song. Further cloaking any stylistic hints are song titles which range from bizarre to hilarious and make preconceptions impossible. On The Live Long After, Sugar Horse has harnessed its ability to genre hop yet also focuses on its sonic abilities to create an absolutely stunning album which is one of the finest from the UK underground in a number of years.
The band really hasn’t held back here and the breadth of genres is still impressive but yet also seems more targeted. I was a huge fan of ‘Drek’ from the first EP, as the clean, soaring vocals of Ashley Tubb really scratched the itch for a feeling of release and towering melody. Since then there have been intermittent sections of that mix but they often changed direction. ‘Phil Spector In Hell’ delivered just what I was seeking as the band spends the full 8 minutes building and working up a beautiful shoegaze anthem where the vocals, and guitars, remain in the dream state distortion and continue to crescendo on themselves like an incoming wave. Similarly ‘Dadcore World Cup’ seems to channel Godspeed You! Black Emperor tones into a huge anthemic track which drenches the speakers in shimmering reverb. It is these moments that remind me of the glory that Oceansize produced during its first two albums.
There is no lack of the heavier moments either and ‘Fat Dracula’ hammers between quiet and loud and the vocals of Tubb move from spoken to screaming with absolute ease. The beauty in the heavy periods is striking and it is one aspect that gives Sugar Horse a unique edge. The guitars complement as well as saturate the pounding rhythm section thanks in part to the baritone guitar of Jake Healy. That extra depth works superbly well with the ever present Martin Savage (drums) and Chris Howarth (bass) and is vital for building the texture allowing the shift in those quiet/loud dynamics. Whilst lighter moments are easier to pluck influential references from the heavy aspects all shine quite unique due to those dynamics. That beauty in the music has been captured amazingly well and sections such as the opening chord progression in ‘Shouting Judas At Bob Dylan’ are so addictive as the tones are just stunning.
It has been a fairly long time, if ever, that a band has provided anthemic shoegaze, devastatingly heavy post-metal and hair raising crescendos in one album. ‘Terrible Things Are Happening As We Speak’ is the collection of all these ambitions and the result is monstrous. This album hits so many genres I enjoy and perfects them with an ease that is matched in the recording quality. The Live Long After is a monumental achievement, where the band go (or take you) from here is anyone’s guess but they truly deserve to be massive.