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I've been looking forward to this album for a long time. I was a big fan of The Golden Bough, and was always surprised that metal-fan opinion on that album was so divided. It wasn't perfect, but it represented a side of epic/doom/heavy metal that was new and oh-so epic, and I still listen to it regularly. Anyhow, The White Goddess has been a long time coming, and naturally I was a little worried that all the build-up would result in a let-down.
Not so. I'll try to convince you with what follows, but to preview my opinion, and at the risk of of sounding like a fanboy: It's perfect. This album is above and beyond the epic creations previously forged by this band, or any other band in the genre. This is easily my album of the year, featuring incredible pacing as a whole and songs that top everything else on the playing field.
Even the filler tracks are outstanding, connecting the major songs seamlessly and elegantly. The guitars frequently combine to create a powerful heavy, doomy (or soaring, as the case may be) landscape which is perfectly counterpointed by the stunning lead riffs, which have a tone that you can virtually feel through the speakers. The drums hit it just right as well, connecting and emphasizing in a way that really works. I don't usually pay close attention to drums, but these were noticeably good.
The vocals are also excellent. Epic metal vocals frequently come off as either overly mournful or pretentiously dramatic (MM from Candlemass...). Here, they are done right. The lead vocals are powerful and clean, as well as sincere. His tone matches the music. There is not a hint of pretension or cheese in the singing. The lyrics are killer as well, ranging from mythology to religion. On a related note, a number of the tracks use tasteful vocal samples, which are effective, topical and expertly placed.
The songs, in epic style, are long. They are the farthest thing from monotonous, however. The band revisits musical themes and ideas throughout each song, but the songs themselves are constantly changing; building, ebbing, and rebuilding to new heights. Listening all the way through never feels like a chore. Multiple listens make them even more enjoyable, as you get an idea of how the band planned each song's progress. Still, each song is a knockout the first time you hear it. I haven't grinned like this at a first listening of an album in more than a decade. Every song on this album is great. My previous favorite by AK was "A Prophet in the Forest." Still a favorite of mine, but several of the songs on the album top it. "Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)" might be the best one here, but it truly is a hard call.
I wish I could say something negative about this album so that I wouldn't sound like such a sycophant, but I just don't have anything bad to say about it. Enough gushing from me. If you are a fan of epic heavy metal, give this one try. For any Atlantean Kodex fan, this is a no-brainer. If you are new to the band, I think you will be happily surprised at what you have been missing.