If there’s any model that has been done to death in the domain of rock and roll in 2012, it’s the 1970’s revival. It seems that a new band has been trying on the blurred guitars, vast riffs and chic facial hair each and every week. The latest ensemble to cross my desk wears the garage elements with a different twist: they’re Swedish.
Troubled Horse, a band that deserves marks for their name alone, arrives with Step Inside. From the town of Orebo in Sweden, three out of the four members have been associated with Swedish outfit Witchcraft.
For all their Swedish pedigree, Troubled Horse does their best imitation of a classic rock band based in the hub of the United States of America. Theirs is a decidedly familiar sound, one built on soft-edged riffing, mingled vocals and theatrical lyrics. It’s hard to point to anything on Step Inside as being all that outstanding, but the musicianship is strong even if it does feel like they’re holding back.
Featuring Martin Heppich (vocals and guitars), Ola Henriksson (bass guitars), John Hoyles (lead guitars), and Jens Henriksson (drums), Troubled Horse presents themselves with “Tainted Water.” The first track from Step Inside opens with promise and a somewhat ragged flare of guitar that draws to mind another crazier Horse, but the mundane soon sets in.
“Bring My Horses Home” is more of the same, although Heppich tries to introduce some strut. Still, the song is squeaky and the drums never hit hard enough.
“Sleep in Your Head” appears to hang on some of the more baroque themes of the 70s, but Heppich’s vocals are uncertain. Once more, the drums aren’t impactful enough. On the plus side, Henriksson’s groovy bass propels the melody onward and upward.
The good news is that Troubled Horse is capable of more. This is evinced with the hearty “One Step Closer to My Grave,” a cut that finally lets Heppich unleash the beast in his vocal chords. His upper registry fits the winding and wailing guitars and the band’s garage feel suits the material more. Henriksson snare catches on a little more, which is a very good thing.
“Shirleen” is another step in the right direction. It packs some bulky riffing and its volatile tempo is a neat touch.
For the most part, Troubled Horse does little to spice up what is becoming a very congested niche. Their Step Inside is a rudimentary, colour-by-numbers record and it’s hard to get a grip on the band’s identity when they’re holding back so much.