Goatcraft – All for Naught (Forbidden Records, 20 March 2013)
Goatcraft – Yersinia Pestis (I, Voidhanger Records, 15 July 2016)
The past few days, we’ve talked about a few different musical groups; while a few of them might be tangentially associated with some form of metal bands, generally these have all been of the non-metal variety, using traditional folk, classical, orchestral, baroque, or chamber ensemble instrumentations, and playing compositions that would be classified as neoclassical or neofolk. Today we close out the week by taking a look at a solo musician from San Antonio, who goes by the same Lonegoat, as the sole member of Goatcraft, whose piano-and-keyboard-only creations have prompted him to coin the term “necroclassical.”
Goatcraft‘s 2013 album All for Naught contains twelve tracks that span 45 minutes — although three of these are little more than brief interludes: “Journey to the Depths” which presents a sort of ethereal, celestial mood, in an X-Files / Stranger Things soundtrack kind of way, and “Gate I” and “Gate II” at less than a minute apiece which are both full of otherworldly, mystical sound effects.
Otherwise, the rest of the album is filled with aggressively riffed piano etudes, occasionally backed with bits of ambient synth stuff. The songs feature violently struck ebonies and ivories, with huge amounts of reverb and sustain (as though the instrument sat in a large auditorium, and its damper pedal was permanently held open to allow each note to ring out indefinitely and continuously bleed into those that follow). Opening track “Call Me Judas” is a great example of the manic playing style, which keeps wandering across the sonic spectrum but always returns to the same basic decending riff.
From there, the listener is endowed with sinister bass-notes; macabre, yet sometimes graceful, fluttering melodies; expressive pieces that range from fast and chaotic to doomy and gloomy. The left-hand part stomps around while the right-hand part bounces up and down all over the keyboard, all the while dripping with enough reverb to make one visualize the descent into the abysmal pits of despair that is implied by many of the song titles.
Speaking of titles, a few of the later ones — “Everything Will Die” and “Consciousness is a Disease” hint at subject matter, and an overall pessimistic attitude toward humanity, that would be explored in much greater detail in the newly-released Yersinia Pestis (which came out last month).
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This ten-track, 38-minute album was named for the bacterium that causes the disease commonly known as the black death. Although many of the tracks seem to make direct, literal references to the historic pandemic that wiped out a large chunk of the population at the time — the mid-paced processional “Plague,” the lively and spritely, yet doom-hued title track, and “Weeping Buboes,” whose graphic title derives from the swellings or sores that give the bubonic plague its name — this record is more about using that specific catastrophe as an example of the cleansing power of nature in general.
Some of the later tracks, like “The Great Mortality” and “Flagellation For Atonement” incorporate some synth-strings floating above the piano; while not quite festive or joyous, the overall tone seems a bit light and airy, considering the subject at hand. And even later, “Bodies Piled” adds various synths and a pan-flute lead into the mix, in addition to the piano. By this point the music has taken on sort of a grandiose, almost celebratory feeling — which further carries into the final track “Denouement” which seems generally pleasant, sometimes even using major chords. In the end, the lesson to be learned here seems clear: that frankly, it could be viewed as a positive (perhaps even necessary) thing for mankind to be largely wiped out from time to time throughout our history, to kind of clear the slate and begin anew. Furthermore, the implication appears to be that maybe we’re about due for another cataclysmic disaster?
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