Once upon a time; many, many years ago, there was a kid named Lonegoat who lived in the land of Florida. And as was tradition for Floridian young people around that time, he played in death metal bands. He showed a real talent for playing the piano and keyboards and, in the words of one former bandmate, “brought a much more classical piano sound to the band rather than someone playing chords and some strange sounds here and there […] and it made all of us in the band have to step up our level of playing to a more classical orchestral sound.”
Well, as is often the case, this kid grew up and went on to do grown-up things like serving in the US Air Force for a while. But after coming back and relocating to Texas, Lonegoat struck out as a solo pianist — calling the new musical venture Goatcraft. A few years back, I wrote about Goatcraft‘s 2013 and 2016 albums.
But before that, in 2011 he had put together a CDR demo to hand out at shows. Here we’ll discuss Mephistophelian Exordium which collects those demo recordings and made them available to the broader public for the first time ever, just a little over a year ago. While we’re here, we’ll also take a look at brand-new album Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, and in the process treat our ears to a full decade worth of “Necroclassical” music.
Goatcraft – Mephistophelian Exordium (Hessian Firm, 20 November 2020)
Goatcraft – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (I, Voidhanger Records, 26 November 2021)
2020’s Mephistophelian Exordium is a double-LP compilation. One half includes all the original 2011 demos, totaling twenty-two untitled pieces. All are dark and gloomy, with cavernous amounts of reverb. As with many solo keyboard works, it’s challenging not to occasionally draw comparisons to some other famous piano (“Moonlight Sonata” or
“Für Elise”) or organ (Bach’s various minor-key Fugues, for example) music.
But here the notes are attacked with a particular ferocity — like in parts of “Untitled #5” where the right-hand part dances around in a gloomy melody but the left-hand seems to be simply smashing and pounding rhythmically across the bass keys. A slight change of vibe comes in “Untitled #16” where the piano part ventures more into the treble end of the instrument than it normally does elsewhere here, sounding perhaps more wistful and serene. But for the most part, it is plainly obvious where that “necroclassical” moniker comes from.
A few of these pieces introduce ambient sounds, like wind, to enhance the atmosphere a bit; “Untitled #7” actually features the background noises more than the piano itself, while a few of them right around the midpoint of the demo (e.g. “Untitled #12,” “#14,” and “#17”) are solely dark synth soundscapes with no actual piano heard anywhere.
The real showpieces here, though, would probably be the 13+ minute “Untitled #20” which really takes its time exploring and expanding on themes; and the 6+ minute “Untitled
#22” which just goes nuts across the ebonies and ivories.
The remainder of Mephistophelian Exordium consists of two (relatively) newer creations: the first is a 21-minute-long live (and mostly improvised) performance captured at KSYM radio San Antonio in 2015. Even more reverby than the earlier demos, this is just a masterful and grand composition exhibition all around. And finally, the 3-minute title track which also had been written and recorded in 2015, this one during the sessions for what became 2016’s Yersinia Pestis.
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Released less than a month ago, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (roughly, “So Passes the Glory of the World,” or “Thus Passes Worldly Glory” according to the title of the final track) gives us nine brand-new Goatcraft pieces, plus one cover that harks back to those Floridian death metal origins.
While this album unquestionably showcases a keyboard virtuoso every bit as much as its predecessors, the overall sensation here is one of somewhat less intensity and more melancholy ambiance. Several tracks consist solely of symphonic synth parts, while others prominently feature such sounds as a backdrop for the piano.
Even the Morbid Angel cover here is a rendition of the gentle, acoustic interlude “Desolate Ways” (from Blessed are the Sick) with the guitar part perfectly replicated on the piano, which meshes seamlessly with the rest of the gentler — at times almost dreamlike — material found here. While the change of pace may be a slightly jarring contrast to the previous release, this album is a fantastic instrumental journey in its own way; perhaps aptly described as an aural personification of the fifth and final stage of grief, acceptance.
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