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Four horsemen

Music | Haunted Horse comes on like a rock apocalypse

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

For years Christian rock bands have claimed to be about either reaching the lost or feeding the found. But if Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance & Delusion, the sophomore effort by the Tooth and Nail supergroup Neon Horse, is any indication, such acts may have at least one other creative option: the making of a joyful racket in the service of reinvigorating that most venerable of religious entertainments, the morality play.

Neon Horse's most obviously dramatic component is the mystery of its members' identities. Rumor has it that singer "Norman Horse" is Stavesacre's Mark Salomon and that the guitarist is Starflyer 59's Jason Martin, the bassist Project 86's Steven Dail, and the drummer Alex Albert, but their putative anonymity frees them from self-expression and allows them rather to come on like the Four Horsemen of a rock 'n' roll apocalypse.

Not that their music isn't dramatic on its own terms. Atop riffs and rhythms fueled by two decades of post-punk fermentation, vignettes such as "Follow the Man" (in which the prospect of unwed motherhood reminds a modern-day woman at the well of her thirst for Living Water) and "When Daddy Gets Home" (in which Christ's imminent return shows up the vain imaginings of heathen man as so much child's play) cast fascinatingly ominous shadows.

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There's even comic relief. Whatever deep meanings determined fans may read into rants such as "Cell-O-Phone" and "Chain Gang, Bang Bang," the borderline absurdity of the lyrics and the dungeon-as-disco atmosphere of the music are their own hard-rocking reward.

Metaphysics as elliptically expressed as Neon Horse's risks being misunderstood, so the liner note thanking "God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour" is understandable. But all art is elliptical, and anyone too blind to follow the band's larger-than-life hoof prints probably won't notice the fine print either.

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