Monday 31 May 2021

Goat Rider - Tsundere (2021)

Country: Costa Rica
Style: Black/Speed Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 May 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | YouTube

I found this as a speed metal album, but it's really a cross between black and speed metal with a punk attitude, kind of like Midnight, who were quite the surprise when I saw them supporting Kreator and Obituary. They're an absolute blitzkrieg on stage and I'm guessing that Goat Rider, who hail from San José in Costa Rica, follow suit. They just don't mess around here, unless we count the intro as messing around. There are ten tracks proper here and there are as many under three minutes as over. There's a cover of a Toxic Holocaust song on their debut album, High Speed from Hell, and that fits too.

While this band are from South America, they clearly have a fondness for Japan. The album's title is a reference to a type of anime character who has two distinct moods: one cold and aloof, the other hot and temperamental. The intro is full of Japanese instruments, like kotos and shakuhachi flutes. There are songs here called Katana, Kamikaze and Hentai, not to forget Harakiri at WWII, all of which cover quintessentially Japanese topics. There are plenty of little snippets that I presume are samples which serve to underline this connection too, as does the stylistic cover art.

Musically, they're not Japanese in the slightest. The roots here are initially English, starting with the mighty Motörhead, an influence that's especially obvious on songs like Necromancer and Harakiri at WWII, the latter of which plays out rather like Orgasmatron for quite a while. Following as an obvious influence is Venom, for reasons of speed and harsh vocal delivery but also because not everything here is speed. Most of these songs don't leave the gate at 100mph and not all of them get up to that, though many do. Goat Rider would have been seen as fast and edgy had they also recorded for Neat Records in the early eighties but they're not as fast and edgy today, given what's happened in the decades between. A song like Flagellator ends up very much in Venom territory.

The eagle eyed would notice that both the bands cited above were, at least at their most influential, power trios, as are Toxic Holocaust and, on stage, Midnight. Goat Rider aren't, because they number four members, but they sound like they are because the music is generated from one guitar, one bass and one set of drums. The only way they're bucking that trend is that vocalist Anthony Umaña, or his musical nom de plume of Cvnt Deströyer, is only the vocalist and he doesn't do double duty on bass. A power trio in this genre has a very recognisable sound, with the bass as obvious as the lead guitar, as often it serves the role of rhythm guitar. A band like Bütcher, who would otherwise work as a further comparison, sound deeper and denser because they have two guitarists.

My favourite songs here are found at the heart of the album. With the Japanese connection firmly in place through the intro and tracks like Fire Rain and Katana, they show just how well they can blister on Satanic Speed Samurai, which title is a really good description of the band on this album, and just how well they can maintain that energy level while not playing incredibly fast throughout on Too Fast for You, which certainly spends much of its time very fast indeed but also slows down very effectively too for a late section. I also love the late pause, as the band wait for a single cymbal note before they enter the final stretch and dive for the line.

With the understanding that this is what it is, and it's not trying to be some higher form of art, there really isn't much negative to say. I'd have liked a thicker sound but I wouldn't suggest the production is flawed; it's just a consequence of being a power trio (plus vocalist). I'd have liked a few more songs too, because this runs a short 33 minutes, but it's kind of appropriate for the musical style. Certainly, we don't need hour long black/speed metal albums. If I want more, I should splash out for the band's debut album, which makes this one look long, given that it wraps up in under 25 minutes.

Of course, with albums running this short, Goat Rider really don't have much excuse not to knock out a fresh one every year for us to tune back in and exercise our necks for a while. This particular combo of genres is a relatively limited one stylistically, even if I really dig it, and Goat Rider have found a clever way of keeping it interesting, with samurai slashing the swords and anime girls crying out phrases still faster than the music. I'd love to see these guys live on stage too. It's only a three thousand mile drive with four borders to cross. During COVID. Yeah, maybe YouTube for now.

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