Like anything worth a damn, heavy music only thrives when it aims to keep moving. Whether growing through crazy acts of evolution or simply by letting the cultural winds drive countless small, incremental changes, the greatest bands are rarely accused of letting the grass grow under their feet. And in the wild and wayward world of undiluted, old school heavy metal and rock’n’roll, Sweden’s Troubled Horse are a living, breathing, balls-out example of how change must always be harnessed to make things bigger, better and more exhilarating.
Formed in 2003 in their hometown of Örebro (also home to Witchcraft), the Horse crew erupted into the consciousness of riff-worshippers everywhere with a low-key seven-inch vinyl release in 2010, and then their debut album Step Inside, which was released by Rise Above Records in 2012. An invigorating whirlwind of spiky garage rock, propulsive psychedelia and thunderous, overdriven soul-meets-doom riffing, Step Inside showcased a band with little interest in current or nostalgic trends, instead revelling in a consciously classic but undeniably fresh new take on the most revered and ageless of musical components.
“We’re not locked into a certain genre,” says frontman Martin Heppich. “We allowed ourselves to explore all kinds of music for inspiration, and then we mix down all ideas into the Troubled Horse grinder! I have always had an idea of what Troubled Horse should be musically since I started the band many years ago, so maybe I come across as some kind of a dictator! What makes us unique in this genre is that we don’t really care if we’re accepted into the type of “exclusive retro rock community” which a lot of times is just ridiculous with all their rules of what’s considered ‘true’ and ‘cool’. If we want to mix doom with punk rock and country music – we’ll do it! We want to create something new, not stare too much into what’s already been done.”
An admirable philosophy, then, and one that has borne dazzling fruit on Troubled Horse’s forthcoming second album Revolution On Repeat. With a refreshed line-up featuring new members Jonas (drums) and Tom (bass) alongside loyal guitar lord Mikael Linder, Martin’s vision of a no-holds-barred celebration of heavy rock in all its colourful, subversive glory has never sounded stronger. From the barrelling, high-energy thunder of Hurricane and Which Way To The Mob through to the sprawling head-rush of The Haunted and acid-tinged, lo-fi psych of Desperation, Revolution On Repeat is an instinctive and naturalistic triumph for fire, fury and feel over the forces of plodding revisionism. Throw in a sublime rendition of Warren Zevon’s death-premonition anthem My Shit’s Fucked Up, and the album amount to a bold, pertinent and subtly dispiriting statement on the state of the world, all underpinned by the loudest guitars imaginable.
“The title Revolution On Repeat refers to the history of society repeating itself again and again,” notes Martin. “[We have] revolution after revolution, with fed up people having enough and finally standing up for themselves. But in the end nothing really changes. Man’s quest for power and wealth tears all great ideas and promises of change apart… and it’s back to square one. It really makes you doubt the current system of democracy. There will be a new uprising – but it won’t take long before it all turns to shit again with a new corrupted leader. People are just too stupid and selfish.”
But despite a gloomy view of humanity, Troubled Horse are never anything less than 100% inspirational. Revolution On Repeat is a diverse, diverting and irresistible slab of curiously timely heavy rock that defies the rulebook and breathes new life into that most enduring and fecund of musical genres. As Martin himself states, it’s the simple things in life that keep us forging ahead with hope in our hearts. Here’s hoping that fire never fades.
“Hopefully people will enjoy the record and we’ll get to go on tour and play live,” he grins. “That would be really awesome! I know it’s a cliché, but playing and writing songs is a venting process at least for me. But this is a team effort, even though I always have the last word because I’m a jerk…ha ha ha!”