Normally you would associate anything musical hailing from Brooklyn to be of the hardcore variety, but there is a darker, heavier and suffocating presence which lurks in the depths of it. Originally, this beast was Type O Negative, but since the tragic passing of Pete Steele ten years ago, there hasn’t really been anything close to filling that gap. Seventh Void and Uranium 235 came close, especially given Johnny Kelly and Kenny Hickey’s presence in Seventh Void, but ultimately, it fell to former T.O.N drummer/Life Of Agony guitarist Sal Abruscato to step up and attempt to fill the giant hole of Brooklyn doom. Luckily, with the aid of Johnny Kelly and Matt Brown (Uranium 235), A Pale Horse Named Death was formed, and the despair rode once again. Now on their third album, after two very highly praised and welcomed releases (And Hell Will Follow Me, Lay My Soul to Waste), Death rides again, using his scythe to pull it all apart and make the world come undone.
Like the previous two releases, “When The World Becomes Undone” is dark. Morbid thoughts, overwhelming despair and hopelessness radiate from the lyrics, the atmosphere is oppressing and the wall of sound from the tri-pronged guitar assault is unrelenting. The tone is huge, borrowing heavily from the Type O Negative approach; massive pickslides which cut through everything, the thunderous drums, the deep and rumbling bass and the thick distortion which sometimes shifts into eerie sounding clean melodies and arpeggios, it’s a very familiar sound and honestly, it’s very welcoming, almost like it were the embrace of death itself. What differs though on this release compared to the previous two is the fact that there seems to be a slightly brighter shine in places, almost like the 80’s goth sounds of Sisters Of Mercy, The Cult and The Mission decided to try their hand at doing some doom.
This strange blend of 80’s goth/alternative and crushing Doom creates a rather vibrant yet draining atmosphere musically. Once you get past the ominous sample opening, “When The World Becomes Undone”, you are greeted with haunting yet bright piano melodies which seamlessly shift into crushing walls of distortion, all delivered to a very deliberate and slow pace, topped off with very haunting lyrics and vocal delivery. The first single from the album, “Love The Ones You Hate” is where the goth/alternative vibe is most prominent. The faster tempo, slightly brighter sound and almost upbeat delivery seems to work rather well when given the Brooklyn-Doom treatment, almost like a slightly less theatrical Sisters Of Mercy track. The bright and almost bouncy feel is a contrast to the lyrical theme and the work of Johnny Kelly on the drums is phenomenal. His sound is unmistakable and the rhythmic delivery is as tight as ever. The only downside is that sometimes, with the multiple layers, things get a little bit muddled or lost in the mix.
The second half of the album is a different beast. Once the more melodic and ‘hopeful’ sounding tracks pass, “End Of Days” brings in the more crushing aspects of A Pale Horse Named Death. The despair is almost as thick as the sound it is created from as it oozes out at a slow pace, and the sweet sounding guitar solo in the later stages of the track has a real rawness to it, packed with feeling and delivered superbly. “Splinters” has slight elements of fellow Brooklyn act Vision Of Disorder in it with the more hazy drone in the restrained sections and the raw and strained vocal delivery in places, but instead of the aggressive and rough hardcore approach, it has a real dark, ‘World Coming Down’ T.O.N feel about it, again blending the clean and haunting sections with crushing heavy walls of distortion. “Dreams Of The End”, the last actual track of the album is a strange one. Again, it has some hazy layering, subtle melodies and sections of crushing noise, but what is interesting about it is that as the track progresses, there are moments where it seems sharper, almost like a new sense of clarity has been reached before it descends into the oppressive haze once again. In a way it is rather symbolic, as the final track on the album, “Closure” is a sample of a funeral bell tolling and someone crying. This symbolism can be taken as someone seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and finally passing through to whatever is on the other side, or it could just be a continuation of the morbid theme which has always ran through the Brooklyn Doom based bands.
However you look at it, “When The World Becomes Undone” is a thoroughly comprehensive release. It hits hard with how bleak and oppressive the world is, how everything is falling apart at the seams and most of all, it continues on where APHND left off. There has been an evolution in the sound of the band, given Sal’s recent jaunts with Life Of Agony and Johnny’s work with Danzig amongst the many other bands and projects he is a part of, the spell of recuperation between releases seems to have allowed a slow and subtle evolution, helping APHND find the right medium to keep their core sound whilst adding in new elements to add some diversity but ultimately retain what makes them sound like who they are. In all, this is a fine release and given how 2018 ended, this could easily feature on the soundtrack to the perceived notion of society falling apart in 2019.