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How They Made 18 Minute Songs More Palatable

2 November 2015 | 1:07 pm | Kane Sutton

"You don't want to be playing a riff for ten minutes, and thinking about whether or not to get a kebab after the show."

On the surface, Drowning Horse's second album Sheltering Sky is a monster, and one of the heaviest records you'll hear this year. Get over the sheer surprise of the album's force, however, and you'll find this album to be complex, refined, and an evolution from their debut, while still maintaining those elements of dread, rust and an uneasy sense of dark sparsity. After realising he has a fan on the line Wills sounds thrilled, and fair enough — Sheltering Sky is an album that took a long time to craft. "I think when we started writing this, I mean, it was ages [ago], the start of 2012, we kind of sat down and thought about what we want this record to be. From the start, we had a pretty clear vision of what we wanted to do with it. Obviously the first record we did was a straight-up doom metal record, it was super heavy and really raw and in your face. With this record, we really wanted to push ourselves. We wanted to play around with riffs and song structures and we really wanted to create a record that was a cohesive album from start to finish. That meant not just writing the heaviest, loudest thing we could; it meant letting some of the songs breathe a bit — making sure it ebbed and flowed."

"Especially playing doom metal, you have a tendency to let riffs go on way longer than they should."

Eight songs all up, Sheltering Sky spans over an hour, the shortest track clocking in at just under five minutes, while the longest ends just shy of 18. With long, sprawling riffs playing a big part in the style of music performed on this album, it begs the question: how do you know when to stop? "That's something we're quite mindful of when we write these songs, because we do have a tendency to write pretty long songs. Sometimes when we keep trying to add stuff to a song, part of the difficult thing for us was to actually kill our babies. We had to be really hard on ourselves and go, look, this is a 15-minute song, and we really want to add this bit to it which sounds sick, but it doesn't really fit within the context of the song or what's happening on the record... I think, especially playing doom metal, you have a tendency to let riffs go on way longer than they should, and although some of our songs are pushing 15, 16, 17 minutes, we don't want it to be too much of a drain to listen to."

And that in itself is why listeners around the world are latching onto this record, building the hype before it has even hit the shelves — there's an exciting element to it, despite its somewhat grim nature. "We wanted to be confident that there was enough going on and it was tight enough to warrant it being that long. It's a long record, but the last thing you want to do is bore people, and bore yourself." That extends to being on stage as well. "We knew we were writing a record that was probably going to be an hour long at least; every time we get up and play it we have to enjoy it, you don't want to be playing a riff for ten minutes, and thinking about whether or not to get a kebab after the show."

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