Thursday 25 April 2019

Goatkraft - Sulphurous Northern Bestiality (2019)

Country: Norway
Style: Black/Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Mar 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Metal Archives | Official Website

There are words often used to describe heavy metal that have acquired deeper meaning over the years. For instance, the first words I thought after this blisteringly short album erupted into its first song, Hordes of Damnation, were 'brutal' and 'harsh'. I'll stand by those but I have to point out that it's not a brutal death metal album and the vocals are oddly understandable.

It's as if this were recorded in 1984 alongside early Bathory when the voice had not yet become purely an instrument rather than thirty-five years later. I'm sure that's much of the point, this being a new band, formed in Bergen as recently as 2017. This is their first full length album, after an EP last year, but, by full length, I mean a full eighteen seconds shorter than Reign in Blood.

I'm sure there are more modern influences here, but to me this sounds like a take on early Bathory, with some Hellhammer in there too and a whole lot of Possessed. It's unashamedly old school throughout and I dig that, as if it isn't a modern mix of black and death but a throwback to when those hadn't yet split apart into separate genres. The band dress in black and wear robes and bullet belts, with a fondness for skull masks rather than corpse paint.

The members all go by single initials, as if they're part of a secret cult. T., their session drummer, launches into hyperspeed from the outset and has little incentive to ever slow back down again. Both O. and G. play guitars, with the latter providing the lead growls too, but it's the bass of A. that really sets each song apart, by shifting up or down as the case may be. I'm hardly hearing the guitars in here at all except as an occasional layer of texture, like on the final track, Volcanic Orthodox Necromancy, where they show up as a higher layer in the chorus above the bass and drums.

The entire album is a wall of sound, with a few demonic interludes to break up the speed. Die hards will appreciate the incessant assault but it has to be said that the effect is lessened over time. Just pause midway through a track for thirty seconds or so and then kick it going again to realise that it suddenly seems twice as brutal as it was before.

Mostly, as you might imagine, this is black metal, but there are points of death, like at the beginning of Spell of Black Pestilence and in the joyous time changes in the title track, when the drums lead a very brief slowdown to death speed, only to launch right back into black hyperspeed repeatedly.

Everything's quick here. There are eleven tracks, but none of them make it past 3:35, meaning that it's over almost before it's begun. Like the Slayer album I mentioned earlier, this will leave you reeling, because it refuses to let up for a moment. It's not just a kick to the face, it's a barrage of repeated kicks to the face for almost half an hour, leaving us bludgeoned into submission. If that's your thing, and especially if you're as old as I am, this is highly recommended. If it isn't, you're gonna hate it.

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