Goatess, Goatess: Copulation on a Cosmic Scale

No doubt some preconceived notions about what Goatess do will stem from their being fronted by vocalist Christian “Chritus” Linderson, whose work in bands like Count Raven, Saint Vitus and Lord Vicar precedes him in the form of a reputation for straight-up traditional doom. And in part, that’s what Goatess, which is the debut album by Goatess on Svart Records, has on offer, but the four-piece is by no means limited to that sphere. Begun as a project called Weekend Beast for Chritus and guitarist Niklas, the eight-track, 67-minute long-player has plenty of plodding Sabbath-ery, but there are also some light touches of psychedelia in the guitar and an undercurrent of stonerly grooving that comes through in bits and pieces along the way. Linderson proved himself able to handle more rocking material over the course of Terra Firma‘s two full-lengths, and though Goatess never quite hit that same level of straightforward heavy rock, the experience shows itself in the variety of the singer’s approach to the cuts here. The cuts themselves vary in kind, with Niklas, bassist Findus and drummer Kenta keeping a consistent vibe while making subtle changes in their sphere of influence that reveal themselves more with repeat listens. Strong leadoff tracks “Know Your Animal” and “Alpha Omega” are no more pretentious than they should be, and Goatess closes out with an effective complementing pair of songs that expands both the runtime — “King One” and “Tentacles of Zen” topping 10 and 11 minutes in succession — and the creative scope of Goatess in general, resulting in an album that makes for a richer experience than it or its Born Again-esque cover art would seem to indicate.

That Black Sabbath reference is the first of several. Long before “Tantacles of Zen” splits at its halfway point to a well-percussed, Eastern-flavored psychedelic jam complete with bleating goat sample, Linderson peppers the changes in “Alpha Omega” with Ozzy-style “alright now!”s and moves between a semi-spoken delivery and bluesier shouts that remind of a more organic version of the moody sensibility that shows up on the doom progenitors’ 2013 outing, 13. As these songs came together over the course of the last several years and as Goatess is released concurrent to 13, it would be inappropriate to assume new Sabbath is an influence, but old Sabbath certainly is, and it shows up in a modern context, so as much as Sabbath were trying to sound like themselves on that album, Goatess are trying to sound like them too, and they’re succeeding. Niklas proves a more than able riffer by the time the 7:45 opener “Know Your Animal” is over, starting out with a single riff that reminds of something from Ghost‘s Opus Eponymous before moving into open-sounding drums and a fuller-toned payoff chorus. True to the style, Findus‘ basslines are the subtle foundation on which the songs rest, and that’s as try of “Know Your Animal” and “Alpha Omega” as it is the rest of the album. The opener has the strongest hook, Linderson namechecking the title Never Say Die as the band moves through the chorus, and Goatess are underway with a strong groove that’s upheld and expanded over the course of subsequent tracks, which — if you were going to divide the album up for a double-LP release, would come in pairs on each side; “Know Your Animal” and “Alpha Omega” on side A, “Ripe” and “Full Moon at Noon” on side B, the shorter “Oracle Pt. 1: The Mist” (a paltry 4:40) and “Oracle Pt. 2” on side C and “King One” and “Tentacles of Zen” on side D.

The material itself supports that structure with fades at the end of several of the songs and the only direct bleed from one to the next coming, appropriately, with the tradeoff from “Oracle Pt. 1: The Mist” to “Oracle Pt. 2.” For an eight-track, four-sided release, however, Goatess isn’t at all choppy, and in a linear format — be it CD or digital — Goatess are able to construct an impressive flow between the songs that, though there’s an obvious end point following the long fade at the end of “Oracle Pt. 2,” justifies continuation via the expansion of scope that the 22-plus minutes of the final two cuts brings. As “Alpha Omega” gives way to “Ripe” and the deceptively catchy “Full Moon at Noon,” which Kenta opens with a count-in on cowbell as if to announce the awesomeness forthcoming, Goatess are able to establish a momentum that carries them through the Iommic riffing and catchy “All together now!” flourish that ensues. With its spaced-out midsection and riffy pulse, “Full Moon at Noon” is probably the fastest and most straight-up stoner rock of the songs on Goatess, but thanks in no small part to the consistent tonality in the recording and the richness in what Findus is playing, the sound is consistent with the rest of the album and instead of seeming out of place, “Full Moon at Noon” winds up bolstering the album’s momentum and providing a highlight and anchor on the way to the largely-textural “Oracle Pt. 1: The Mist” (atmospheric as suits its title) and righteous ascension marked by “Oracle Pt. 2,” which stands both as one of the record’s most grandiose moments and its greatest achievements, consuming in its riff, full in sound, andGoatess’ best and most effective blending of the stoned and the doomed aspects of their sonic personality.

Maybe that’s why “King One” and “Tentacles of Zen” seem at first like a comedown. They’re not — and that’s apparent right from the cough Linderson throws out to make an opening vocal stamp on the kick-in of “King One” — but with the long fade at the end of “Oracle Pt. 2,” the fact that about 45 minutes have passed when the song is over and the grand nature of the song itself, it seems like a natural finishing point, not to mention a place to end that could’ve kept Goatess to a single-LP release. Nonetheless, when there’s more to say, there’s nothing to do except to say it, and Goatess don’t ultimately suffer memorability for the extended runtime. Where it detracts from the album is in the initial casual listens, before whoever is hearing Goatess for the first couple times has a chance to really appreciate the stylistic turns the band is making and how organically they’re making them. Pending that, “King One” and “Tentacles of Zen” wind up two of the album’s strongest moments, the latter opening with a sample from the 1976 movie I, Claudius that heralds the coming of the riff with the line, “Copulation on a cosmic scale.” Stars fucking, in other words. What could be more space rock than that? Goatess lumber out following the aforementioned mid-song jam on a stomping return of the song’s thick chorus riff, Linderson‘s return reestablishing the hook bookending the closer so as to reinforce the quality of Goatess‘ songwriting, as accomplished as it is doomed. Even with the legacy of their vocalist behind them, Goatess‘ first outing might prove a sleeper in terms of the response, because there’s little about it ultimately that’s flashy and there’s little attempt to divert it from a still-underground doom vibe, but neither its lack of pomp or its yikes-well-isn’t-that-something artwork should dissuade those who might dig the stoner-psych-doom grooves from doing so. An impressive, more-than-solid, more-than-cohesive first outing.

Goatess, “King One” from Goatess (2013)

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