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Album Review: A Pale Horse Named Death – When the World Becomes Undone

If A Pale Horse Named Death is the successor to Type O Negative, then When the World Becomes Undone is essentially their World Coming Down. In addition to vague title similarities and a shared alt/goth metal template, it features a similarly morose outlook and significantly slower tempos than the band’s previous works. The numerous soundscapes scattered throughout only reinforce these parallels. Unfortunately, When the World Becomes Undone fails to live up to this vision and is a disappointing step down when examined on the band’s individual merits.

This is an incredibly monotonous album on just about every metric. It’s unfair to say that the songs on here all sound the same since they do mix up dynamics and incorporate varied influences, but it’s all for naught when the writing and performances are this stilted. Whether the band aims for doom dirges or bittersweet post-punk-isms, just about every song is driven by the dully droning rhythms accentuated by drawn out, predictably linear melodies. It’s obviously meant to be depressively hypnotic, but such an effect only works when the message can establish a meaningful connection with its receiver.

And with that, the album’s most crippling flaw is its lack of distinct character. The personal struggles that bandleader Sal Abruscato underwent while crafting these songs don’t come through, as his vocals are forced and his lyrics aren’t really “about” anything beyond generic melancholy. Granted he was never the greatest writer to begin with, but his last two albums covered a variety of topics with dark humor. We don’t need Peter Steele levels of blunt confessionalism, but a little extra pathos would’ve gone a long way.

On the bright side, there are some good songs on here. Going past the opening ambiance, the title track is a pretty strong start as the lullaby piano melody results in some effective contrasts that “Love the Ones You Hate” follows up with an almost upbeat rhythm. From there, “Vultures” picks up some Jerry Cantrell-style riffs and the chugs and poppy backing vocals on “Lay with the Wicked” make for a strange cross between “Set Me on Fire” and “Hail and Farewell to Britain.”

When the World Becomes Undone is a fitting title for this album: The clunky delivery only emphasizes the unnecessary length. A shaved runtime might make it easier to swallow, but the flat delivery and dull songwriting would get old regardless. I imagine it’s a more compelling soundtrack when one is at an absolute rock bottom point, but I wouldn’t reach for this album in such a scenario when so many better alternatives are available. It’s obviously meant to be a grower, but it doesn’t give much incentive to develop a connection. I can tolerate it overall and even enjoy it in spots, but I end up bored and groaning just as often.

Other fans of the style may still get something out of it, but A Pale Horse Named Death can do a lot better than this. I’m not mad, just disappointed.

Highlights:
“When the World Becomes Undone”
“Love the Ones You Hate”
“Vultures”
“Lay with the Wicked”

Editor Grade

C-

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