Stone left the band for two years while he began to make wholesale changes to his lifestyle, quitting smoking and drinking in an effort to preserve the voice that was his livelihood. The other guys continued playing together under the name deadnotes, eventually reuniting with Stone in 2005. By then, all of the bandmembers had left their partying ways behind, and they pared down the name of the act to Horse — which, in essence, signified a new beginning for all of them.

Given the stature of its frontman, you'd be forgiven if you assumed that Horse is a novelty act. But the fact is, these guys can play, which is immediately evident when you see them live or hear songs like "Bullets" off their new album, U.S. Metal. They can also write, as evidenced by the incisive lyrics: "Whatever happened to fighting with fists is my question/Why does reality make you all so afraid?/You'd be wise if you picked up a book from the old school/Maybe a good ass-whupping is all that you need." Immaculately recorded by metal maestro Dave Otero, U.S. Metal takes a time-tested, bare-knuckled approach to the type of metal that's built on driving riffs and double kicks, resulting in a taut, classic, thrash sound that nods to vintage Pantera. The fact that Horse's members have been friends and colleagues for so long and have been through so much clearly played a big part in the band's progression. Still, it had to be a bit sobering seeing things through a, well, sober lens.

"It was a little nerve-racking," Stone says of Horse's show at the Gothic in 2005, his first without imbibing. "You're not sure: 'Are they going to like me sober, or am I doing the right things?' And then you look out and get the response that you're hoping for and you start to settle in. I was nervous as fuck — I wanted to drink, you know. But I didn't."

Thoroughbreds: Donnie Crisp (from left), Steve Patt, Doug Tackett and Gregg Stone are Horse.
Thoroughbreds: Donnie Crisp (from left), Steve Patt, Doug Tackett and Gregg Stone are Horse.


CD-release party, with Apathy, Defeat the Lie and Glass Delirium, 8 p.m. Friday, February 27, Toad Tavern, 5302 South Federal Circle, Littleton, $7, 303-795-6877; with Lovebox and intertwined, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 28, Out of Bounds, 281A East 29th Street, Loveland, 1-970-663-1550.

"Drinking was a big part of this band," admits Stone, who's in the best of shape of his life. "If you look at the trash can in our rehearsal space now, there's nothing but empty water bottles."

"I think one of the other aspects that we have in the band right now is that we're all having fun," Tackett adds. "We've had our time where we kind of did that go-for-broke, looking for the stardom and playing the party scene and playing the rock stars. Right now we're just playing pure music. We're playing it for fun, and we're having a great time."

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