Taking one look at the title of the debut EP from Horizoneer had me thinking one word: ambition.
Then you look into it a little more deeply and you find the cover art apparently comes from NASA and the EP is a concept record concerning, in his own words: “the imagined story of a refugee who has to flee their country, leave everything behind. They make it to safety, losing friends on the way. Years later, they travel home and begin to process all they lost.”
And you think, this is a labour of love and as such, it probably doesn’t – and indeed shouldn’t – matter what anyone else thinks about these six tracks.
But here’s the thing. Horizoneer is josh Watson. A name that maybe doesn’t mean as much as it should, but Watson was the guitarist in Birmingham’s hardest to categorise band, Captain Horizon. The band have recently called it a day (the gold records they should have earned are as yet unminted) but Watson has had these tracks in his back pocket since 2015 and has now decided they should see the light of day.
All they do, actually, is confirm how disgustingly talented he is.
His old band had a charismatic frontman, and as such you could watch them – and I did many times both before this site existed and after – and not really notice the guitarist at all. That might be just how he likes it, possibly, but when you can write songs like this and play every instrument here (he doesn’t do his own backing vocals, which is a bit lazy.….) you are almost duty bound to do so.
Like all the best concept albums it can be listened to as standalone tracks without having a clue what the story is and still be superb (cards on the table here, that’s what I did the first time I heard it). It works like this because of the subtleties, the light and shade, the peaks and the troughs. There are moments of heavy riffing like on the opener “Light Before The Dawn” which broods and builds, but instinctively knows how to be catchy – Horizon always did.
“Demented Angel” is perhaps the best thing here. Angular guitar lines, a bass thump and thought-provoking imagery abound. The journey continues, both metaphorically and literally with the evocative throb of “Desert Waves”, while there is a real poetic quality about the acoustically driven “The Storm” which combines a fragility with interesting sounds and melody.
“Now I Disappear” makes good on Watson’s claim to like “poppy” things on his Bandcamp page, but then, the average pop song does not (as far as I recall from 80’s school discos anyway) contain the word “inscrutable”, but then this is not the average record, in fairness.
In common with everything else here “Something Good Has Happened” sounds like its ready for arenas – and if Biffy Clyro or the Manics had written it, then that’s where it would be, as it sounds absolutely euphoric.
Mostly though, listening to this I kept thinking of Steve Hogarth era Marillion, and this excellent EP would add to their back catalogue too. Engaging, brilliantly conceived and wonderfully played it is all matched by Watson’s vocals.
No longer the side man, Horizoneer needs to make part 2 and complete this trip. Let’s face it, he’s got plenty of material – its not like the world is a better place now than in 2015, is it? But then, when people make EP’s as bold as this one, it can’t be all bad, either.
“Desert Waves on Endless Shores Pt.1” is available as pay what you like download on Bandcamp