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What we all know as the Goatlord album is basically a rehearsal tape of the material planned for Darkthrone's second full-length. Recorded in 1991, this followed the path started with Soulside Journey, and one can only speculate how the finished product would have sounded. Obviously, it would have featured a more professional production and would lack the raw feeling that this has. However, this never happened. After the release of Soulside Journey, and as they were working on these songs, three of the four members of Darkthrone seemed to be truly inspired by the old black metal albums of Bathory and Hellhammer, among others. They had also developed some sort of friendship with the guys in Mayhem, most notably, Euronymous. As it turned out, they decided that the Goatlord material did not represent their true musical passions and it was scrapped. Instead, they regressed to the primitive sound of old school black metal and the underground was soon shocked with the arrival of A Blaze in the Northern Sky.
In the meantime, the Goatlord rehearsal sat on the shelf, collecting dust. Fast forward to 1994, during a time when Fenriz was extremely prolific, participating in several projects and working on his own quite a bit. With frequent access to Necrohell studio, he decided to take this aborted album and to add vocals to it. Even still, it remained unheard for quite some time, finally seeing the light of day in late 1996 when it was released on Moonfog records. Popular opinion seems to be that this was some sort of cash grab for Darkthrone or Satyr, yet this view is completely ridiculous. If Darkthrone had ever been a band that existed in order to make money, they would not have abandoned death metal during a time when it was popular and trendy. They certainly would not have embraced the lo-fi necro sounds of '80s black metal at a point in time when no one really cared for or understood this. As well, once this did catch on, they would have taken all of the countless offers to play live and to be paid accordingly. Simply put, there was something about this music that appealed to Nocturno Culto and Fenriz, imbuing them with the feeling that it was deserving of an official release for those that would appreciate it. It was likely that they knew it would meet with some criticism, especially when one considers that, in 1996, Darkthrone still possessed quite a bit of mystique and had just released several of the best black metal albums to ever be recorded. It was a brazen move, to go back and embrace their past, after spending some years distancing themselves from it.
Regarding the actual songwriting, this is really all over the place. At times, it seems rather complex and difficult to follow, as there are hardly any recognizable structures. Rhythms change often and suddenly, sometimes giving the songs a rather random and improvised feeling, even though the band was rehearsing all the time back then. There is of course an overly technical death metal vibe, with Fenriz going against what the music called for and playing with a rather hyperactive style that was not always necessary. It is a good thing that he went on to learn what so many other drummers fail to, that showing off does nothing for the overall product and is often detrimental to the music. Nevertheless, what one finds with Goatlord is that Darkthrone has always been a band that puts the guitar riff first and foremost, and this album is dripping with an utter dark feeling that is conveyed by the brilliant riffs. It is too bad that the songwriting suffers from poor organization. In some cases, there is too much going on within the tracks; so many great riffs pass through, briefly, when whole songs could have been built around some of them. There are a number of melodies that would not have been out of place on an old '80s black/death release, mixed in with other riffs that are totally possessed with a feeling of total doom. One can clearly hear influences from the likes of Autopsy and of course Celtic Frost, as usual. Also present, as on Soulside Journey, are the trademark tremolo melodies that Darkthrone would become famous for, during their classic years. Though the songs are mostly mid-paced and shift gears frequently, there are occasional fast riffs with blast beats. However, these are forgettable when compared to the really slow riffs, which are much more memorable. The band could have, easily, moved on to make a form of black/doom, had they wanted to. The only complaint is that the slower sections would have benefited from less over-the-top drum work. Regardless, there is no denying the absolutely gloomy feeling of this material. There are points here where you can really hear the beginning of the transition from Soulside Journey to A Blaze in the Northern Sky. Still, they had not yet gone into the realm of cold and grim atmospheres, despite the incomprehensibly eerie feeling that this possesses.
As for the sound, the darkness of Goatlord is somewhat derived from the fact that it has such an unprofessional sound. The fact that it is a rehearsal recording lends a raw and old school feeling that only adds to the hellish vibe. For a rehearsal, this actually sounds very good. Often, the low-end would dominate everything else, yet the riffs cut through with a sharp clarity that one would not fully expect. Compared to the instrumental version, it seems that a bit of treble has been added here, which was a really good move. The overall impression is still kind of muddy, but the guitars rise from this murkiness and slice right into you, when necessary. The vocals are a little high in the mix, similar to Panzerfaust, but not to the extent that it becomes a problem. Due to the general raw and under-produced sound, Fenriz's harsh and unrestrained vocal performance really seems to fit far more than what Nocturno Culto would likely have done if the album had been recorded as planned, back in 1991. It would be natural to guess that he would have utilized a style similar to that of the debut record, which is hard to even imagine while listening to this.
Speaking of the vocals, regardless of what anyone may think, Fenriz totally makes this album with his vocals. This may be one of the hardest parts of the album to digest. I know that, the first time I heard this, I could hardly understand what the hell I was listening to and thought it was bloody horrible. I refused to bother with this for a couple years, honestly. However, once I decided to give it another chance, the vocals grew on me. Of course, one would never have expected to hear Fenriz doing his best King Diamond impersonation and, upon first listen, I thought they'd brought in some useless whore to sing on the album as so many other bands had done. Yet somehow, when I later returned to Goatlord, it was so clear what he was going for and I was able to appreciate it. He shows quite a bit of range, compared to what one might expect, with some deeper and throatier voices coming and going, though mostly sticking with the sort of hellish and raspy sound as heard on Isengard's Høstmørke. He also makes good use of rather sinister whispering and tortured wails. In truth, this may be the most brilliant vocal work that Fenriz ever did. Overall, his performance is so over-the-top and even theatrical that it really brings the music to life and adds a lot to the atmosphere, in a way that Nocturno Culto probably could not have done, at this point. Without the great effort put into the vocals, this album would have been rather flat and lacked the eerie and nightmarish vibe that it is known for.
The most important thing to do when approaching Goatlord for the first time is to keep an open mind. It is such a unique album, not only within Darkthrone's catalogue, but just in general. I have never encountered anything else remotely like this. It would be easy to say that, if you are a fan of Soulside Journey, then the music presented here will likely appeal to you. Yet it is not so simple, as the vocals really make this a completely different beast. At any rate, it really does work well as the missing link between the debut L.P. and A Blaze in the Northern Sky, while also venturing into territory that few others ever have. This may not be for everyone, not even all Darkthrone fans, yet it is highly recommended for anyone with a true passion for dark and hellish music. Even if you don't get it at first, be patient. It will definitely grow on you.
Goatlord is actually one of Darkthrone's more interesting releases, not for the inherent quality of the material but for the history involved. Essentially, this is the album that would have, could have been the followup to 1991's Soulside Journey, so the material you will find here is much akin to their early work, raw death metal with a little groove and some influence from the obvious parties (Celtic Frost, a little Death, Autopsy, and so forth). The tracks to this album were rehearsed but later shelved when the band decided to alter their course towards the emergent black metal (if you've got the Frostland Tapes compilation, you can hear the entire thing in its original, instrumental form). In 1994, it was decided that Fenriz would record some vocals (with a little help from some friends) and release the material as a sort of posthumous 'rehearsal album' through Moonfog, and I for one am happy they did, as this is sort of a treat.
It's a messy treat though, like getting that half-melted ice cream bar from your creepy uncle, trying to grin and bear it while you halfheartedly consume the thing, wondering what he might have slipped inside it. But a treat nonetheless! Of course, as this is basically a rehearsal with a few cheaply added vocal tracks, you will have to deal with the concessions. There is a nice, bruising, raw guitar tone here which sounds at best like a tight live performance, but the drums are as tinny and the bass as plopping as you would expect from an old soundboard. Since the vocals were added later, they seem to exist in a realm all their own. You've got the standard Fenriz rasps, his manly, oddball crooning, and even some 'femme' gothic opera vocals which at times sound like King Diamond. Supposedly, it was Fenriz who did all of these vocals, though there are some backups from Satyr.
Not a lot of people have given this release a fair shake, and through my first few exposures, I can kind of relate. But once you accept it simply for what it is, and not what you were hoping, you will find that there is a lattice of rather mesmerizing, grooving riffs that were written here which probably could have made for a killer album with the band's older, death metal vocals and a studio production akin to Soulside Journey. If they were one day to reincarnate this material and give it a proper treatment, I would actually buy it again, but then I'm not at all disappointed with the currency I blew on this the first time around.
"Rex" opens with a frilly speed picked death line, and while you get the impression the track will run off at this speed, it actually turns into a stubborn groove which drifts through a number of pretty cool riffs, often bordering on a stoner death hybrid. "Pure Demoniac Blessing" would have been a perfect fit for Soulside Journey, though the melody stops and starts and Fenriz' cleaner, dreary vocals feel incredibly corny over the doom verse. However, when it reaches into its chest and pulls free its death metal heart, I am quite reminded of an old Death-like atmosphere, ala Leprosy. The vocals are a little wild, like a plaster of schizos recorded sessions with their shrink and simply 4-tracked onto this old recording. But you'll have to get used to them if you're going to listen to this album.
"The Grimness of Which Shepherds Mourn" starts with a big Celtic Frost rhythm, and Fenriz even goes so far as to purportedly ape a high-pitched female vocalist just so it might sound like something from Into the Pandemonium. Personally I enjoyed it, there is this uncouth pleasure to be had from a song like this, and if it was being performed before me I would be banging my head in between opium hits with the best of them. The bass is so thick here that it borders on the post-funk of Les Claypool during the bridge. "Sadomasochistic Rites" is vile and evil death/doom, crawling forward under some of Fenriz' sickest vocals ever, while he wails against himself like a morbid ghost lost in the woodlands. "As Desertshadows" has a deeper guitar tone than the previous tracks, one of the tracks which bears the most semblance to Soulside Journey, with the added 'female' operatic vocals, and there is this great, dark crawling passage before 2:00 which would have slayed on either that album or one of the earlier Paradise Lost records.
"In His Lovely Kingdom" has a grim atmosphere of writhing, melodic death which crashes forward over the double bass, picking up speed into a bleeding guitar line for a brief second before yet again morphing into another of the band's death/doom segues, this time a hybrid of Sabbath and Death. "Black Daimon" is the perfect ritual death rehearsal, with a variety of vocals that all work in conjunction like a chorus of paranoid schizophrenics. I love the catchy old school Death hook in this, and the end cycles through a painful doom crawl to some grinding death. "Toward(s) the Thornfields" is excellent, painful death/doom which would probably have Cathedral dripping with envy, and "(Birth of Evil) Virgin Sin" feels like a simplified, stretched out warmup for a Demilich recording. "Green Cave Float" is one of the better regarded tracks from the album, a lurching melodic groove that mutates into simmering death grizzle....it's really, really good, even when the femme vocals arrive, it's like a procession of lost souls trying to escape a labyrinth of ancient, crushing stone and slime.
I'm going to say this: if Goatlord were recorded in a proper studio and released in its intended form, it would today be another album hailed in the same regards as the early works of My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost, and maybe the debut from Amorphis. I.e. a death/doom metal classic. There are a great many quality riffs here, the only problem with this particular recording is the vocals stand out, but I'm not sure how else they would have done it due to the disparity in the sessions. Anyone who is listening to this and expecting to hear the Darkthrone black metal that they are used to is wrong, I mean, read the fucking liner notes...or do a little research before you buy something. At the same time, the vocals here can be a little distracting, and perhaps Fenriz could have reined them in so they'd match the more serious nature of the music itself. The lyrics here are not the best of Darkthrone, but consistent enough that you wouldn't find them cheesy if not for the means by which some of them are delivered. But in general, I like all the voices the guy is doing, it's just a matter of them standing out so far in the mix that it becomes obvious they come from two different eras.
So where does this fit in? Well, if you're a fan of Soulside Journey, I heartily recommend buying this, because it's quite enjoyable. If you're a production whore, avoid it, and honestly you'll probably also want to avoid most of the band's releases, since they do not exactly practice the studio sterility of the modern metal world even when they go at it with an actual budget. This is some surly, memorable old school death metal which, despite its bizarre format, manages to succeed where so many have failed, at crafting the creepy hooks and atmosphere which should always beat at the black heart of the genre. As far as the means by which it finally surfaced...hell, I wouldn't mind more bands attempting this type of release.
Highlights: Rex, Pure Demoniac Blessing, The Grimness of Which Shepherds Mourn, Black Daimon, Toward(s) the Thornfields, Green Cave Float
There are two things that ruin this album. The first is the vocals. The second is the timing.
Most people know that this was an album that was recorded at two separate times. This is most obvious in how much louder the vocals are than the instrumental portions of the recording. It detracts in my opinion from the overall fluidity of the record.
The main thing that makes me dislike this record more than any other album that Darkthrone has released, is the "female" vocals. First of all, they are inappropriate. It gives an otherwise decent album a cheap and almost comical sound. It seems that this was a joke to Fenriz, who did the normal black metal rasps, and apparently also performed the falsetto female vocals. What is the point I ask? For one thing, Nocturno Culto didn't do the vocals, even though there were many years that had passed since he took over as the vocalist for the band. It is nothing that the band was, or was moving towards...Vocally, this album was in left field with a hockey stick.
The female-like singing in the background is irrelavant and totally deters from the musical quality of the album. I think if these horribly mis-placed, terribly off-key, and irreperably damaging vocals were removed, this would actually be a pretty damn kick-ass album. Alas, the random, tone-deaf wails make people cringe, and shake their heads in disgust. This is a definite what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking type situation. Assuredly, just one of those things that make you go "hmmmm".
I am not saying that Fenriz did a poor job (except for those random faux-female noises), I just don't really see what they were trying to accomplish by having a different person perform the vocals in a record that, in my opinion, is supposed to be the best showing as to how the band transitioned from death metal to black metal. The musical content is definitely in line with the transition that was happening. In my opinion A Blaze In The Northern Sky is their heaviest and darkest recording. There is still deathy remnants in that album (although they were completely abolished by Transylvanian Hunger) and Goatlord straddles that fence of black/death; as it should.
Musically, though, the album is quite good. The strange beats that Fenriz used in Soulside Journey are still present in this release, the guitars are still on a death metal tangent for the most part, keeping the riffs crunchy, complex and refreshing. The quality of the recording is decent, and is much better than any of their previous releases, except SJ, where the fuzzy, unproduced sound was not as much a goal due to the different genre being played.
The band's lineup was the same, and that is to me the reason that there was still so much death metal influence, the riffs being quite similar and along the lines of SJ, the songs being exponentially shorter, and there being a much more fill-oriented drumming style. Fenriz used the other parts of his drumkit instead of the high hat, the ride, and the snare...and used a fair amount of double-bass. I think this was a nice addition to the blackened death metal feel of the album. Zephyrous and Nocturno played a diversity that falls between SJ and ABITNS where they were beginning to transmogrify their complexity, for driving and raw black metal riffs that were as predictable as a metronome regarding the strums for the chords.
This album was definitely a good release, if released when recorded. I feel that would have made this release much more widely accepted due to the fact that the sound, and song structure of SJ would be very fresh in the listener's mind, and it would be easier to see the relevance, and direction that Darkthrone was taking. Also, the stark difference between styles would have been much smoother, and possibly bridged the gap of fans of Darkthrone the death metal band, and Darkthrone the black metal band.
Whatever reasons Fenriz and Nocturno had for releasing this album, were probably not very sound. Some have put to question whether or not they did it for the money. That is indeed a good theory. Because why would they release something that had such an un-serious approach after 4 of the most monumental releases in black metal's short history? The step down from those 4 to this is something that is almost beyond comprehension. After all, their transition was completed many years ago, and what fan base they had knew what to expect from these artists, and to receive such a curveball jeopardized their fan-base so much, that I fail to see reasoning behind this release.
Thankfully, for me, this album is saved only by the musical content, and my interest in the history of the band. I appreciate seeing the musical grey area that existed before ABITNS, and after Soulside Journey. It is a good showing as to how the band progressed musically. The fake woman Fenriz funtime is what floors me, and makes me wish this album didn't exist.
But it is here, and I appreciate it for what it is: the best and worst of Darkthrone all in one single album. The best musical description of how an up and coming death metal band made the transition to black metal (and one of the most influential black metal bands at that), and the worst timing ever, and the biggest blunder that Darkthrone has ever made in their illustrious 21 year (and counting) career.
Like Soulside Journey Darkthrone's Goatlord is an album i had sitting around, though unlike Soulside Journey the dust it gathered had good reason behind it. Goatlord isn't an album as much as it is an official release of previously unreleased material during Darkthrone's death metal era in their timeline. Goatlord was originally planned to be Darkthrone's sophomore release under the Peaceville record label before the band got to know Euronymous and changed their sound to cold, raw, harsh black metal and released their classic "A Blaze in the Northern Sky."
Goatlord is definitely an underrated album. It's the type of album that generally on first impressions seems like it will be a complete flop, but on the contrary there were some good ideas on this record, though unfortunately they were poorly executed. It's common knowledge by now with anyone reading reviews to this album that Goatlord was not much more than a rehearsal tape made during the early 90s with the vocals added later on. It isn't. The production is a clear indication of that. It's just what you'd expect listening to an early 90s death metal demo tape, or any rehearsal tape from most bands, however in some parts it actually gives more to the recording than takes away. Could this album have been better if they went and re-recorded it professionally? Absolutely, and honestly if they had done so I'd probably be more inclined to boost my rating of this album in that case.
The instrumentation itself on this album is definitely noteworthy. What you have here is very solid 90s death metal, and a good direction from their soulside journey album in terms of the actual musicianship. The guitar playing is near flawless and Fenriz's drumming is more than a metronome like with Darkthrone's black metal era recordings, and even a step up from his playing on the soulside journey album which admittedly was lacking in some places. His fills and timing were very good, even on a rehearsal recording like that.
However where does this album lack? The vocal work. Recorded later on, this almost kills the entire album as a whole. Nocturno Cultos vocals are very out of place, poorly mixed with the instrumentation and just seem to be its own seperate entity which can prove to be distracting from what was mostly good ideas when it came to the strings and the drums. Even worse are "Fenriz"'s female vocal lines which provide nothing to the overall recording which prove completely useless and downright confusing when listening. What he was thinking none of us can tell, and if it was meant to be a joke, it was a rather poor one considering darkthrone was just breaking out from their prime with Transilvanian Hunger and Panzerfaust before this record came out. The backing vocals and male vocals themselves are equally pitiful and distracting on the recording and definitely take away from what this album could have been.
Goatlord could have been a strong album release, there are definitely some key things surrounding the album that brought it down, but at the same time there were plenty of great ideas put together on the recording that can make some fans of Darkthrone wish they had taken the album and done more for it. Had they taken out the useless clean vocals and had they rerecorded the album in a more professional studio, perhaps Goatlord could've easily rivaled Soulside Journey in terms of how well done it is, but unfortunately Darkthrone decided to just release the rehearsal as was and add some aspects to it which only would make the record turn out worse. Listen to this recording at least once, don't expect much from it, but it's definitely worth spinning once or twice if you can borrow it from someone or download it somewhere for free.
Make no mistake, "Soulside Journey" is a fine piece of Scandinavian death metal, secure in its position and unique because of a twisted and angular approach to songwriting that most of Darkthrone's peers did not favour. However, isn't it a somewhat sterile-sounding affair? Does it not sound, due in large part to the Sunlight production, like "Indecent and Obscene"'s more wide-eyed and brainy brother, who could certainly wow you with his IQ but probably couldn't break your jaw with a fist like his sibling would given the chance? There's something that prevents "Soulside Journey" from really being considered among the classic works of Darkthrone, and I would say there's more to this than the simple fact that it's a death metal album. I'm pretty sure that most people got over Darkthrone's style change years and years ago.
Well, if you answered "yes", even if hesitantly to the question above, then you should listen here, because this album (that isn't really an album at all) encapsulates the feeling of what "Soulside Journey" could have been, while being considerably different by virtue of a distinct lack of polish. In fact, this really is a raw recording, which is not exactly something I would say about Darkthrone's black metal albums. It is a rehearsal, if a well-cooked one, and while it is obvious that the band knows the songs well and are quite disciplined, you will notice the ambience of the room (garage?) Darkthrone recorded this in, you will hear the crackle of overdriven amps and the sharp wash-out of enthusiastic cymbal-bashing. And hell and damnation, it sounds superb! If you ever wondered what it would be like sitting in Darkthrone's rehearsal space in 1991, hearing the band crank out some gloriously evil hymns to Darkness, "Goatlord" is your chance to find out. It's death metal, oh yes, but it is as black as any of Darkthrone's black metal classics, and within the confines of these tracks, mastered no doubt from an old cassette tape, you will find a spine-chilling evil feeling that simply isn't much present on the band's workmanlike debut.
My position on "Goatlord" may be slightly unusual, because this is actually the first Darkthrone release I heard and unreservedly enjoyed. Before early 1997 (I think it was), I had heard "Transilvanian Hunger", or at least most of it, and while there was something slightly fascinating about the repetitive melodies and hissy sound and endlessly pattering percussion, I just didn't get it at the time. Then, a woman who hosted a local metal radio show at some ungodly hour of the night far in excess of the Witching One played "Sadomasochistic Rites" from the "Goatlord" session. I was immediately struck by the absolutely eerie and dark feeling this recording had, and I was surprised to learn that the song was by Darkthrone because, rather than being hypnotically repetitive, it was frenetic, unpredictable and busy, with a raw-as-hades guitar sound that was like early Black Sabbath but much dirtier. Of course, I didn't know the history of the band at the time, but I knew I had to have this recording, whatever the hell it was, and further songs played in the coming weeks on the same show made me realise what a creepy gem this really was. While I went on to love "A Blaze in the Northern Sky", and even "Transilvanian Hunger" in time, this recording has always had a special place in my heart as it was my true introduction to what would become my favourite band for many years.
I suppose it is commonplace for people to say nowadays, "well, 'Goatlord' should never have had the vocals overdubbed .. they maybe should have released the instrumental version." I however cannot condone this sentiment. Sure, the vocals were added a few years later, and they seem to have been thrown into the mix without much thought given toward comparative levels or balance. Yes, there are moaning, ululating falseto croonings in most of these songs, provided by Fenriz himself. You're damn right, it sounds weird and not quite the height of profficiency. But "Goatlord" is basically a demo, given professional packaging in retrospect, and the vocal addition is a sweet touch indeed, with its excessive volume, pukish screams (certainly not done by Satyr) and sundry strange noises only adding to the morbidity of proceedings. I would be a lot less happy about "Goatlord" without them, and I'm almost more of a fan of the crooning than I am of the synthesiser bits on "Soulside Journey", which the former is obviously supposed to replace. Who knows if, given the chance, Darkthrone would have inserted keyboards where these vocals currently stand, but I can tell you that they add a unique presence to the recording that I've never heard anywhere else, particularly when they're harmonised, which provides a wonderfully eerie effect. The band abandoned these songs, but think of all the blackness that would have been sucked out of them at Sunlight Studio! Ole' Skogsberg would never have let Fenriz moan and hum into a microphone like that, and more to the point, that whole ominous, horror-metal vibe that "Goatlord" exhibits in spades would simply be gone!
I don't know if it's the dirty, roomy sound, but this sounds a lot more like Autopsy than "Soulside Journey" does, while still maintaining its own sick character. The lurching tempo-shifts, tumbling drum fills and trudging doom all call to mind the aforementioned American group's most sublime moments, and both Darkthrone and Autopsy seem to draw on the same primal metal influences. Those who dismiss the new Darkthrone stuff for being too rockish might want to take a listen to a song like "Towards the Thornfields", and not only note the unrepentent Black Sabbath-like groove, but also perhaps be surprised by its twisted nature. This is also something I always admired about Autopsy: How they would take these retrograde, rock 'n' roll riffs and wrench and mutate them into something that resembled bile gurgling and churning in a corpse's gut.
Fenriz is all over the drums here too, in full death metal exuberance that only remains slightly on the subsequent full-length and dissipates quickly afterwards. It's a pleasure to hear and assures us that he is a very capable and even stellar drummer, and I do prefer this live percussive attack to the heavy but somewhat lifeless-sounding battery on "Soulside Journey". I particularly enjoy the use of the china cymbal here, which gets beaten pretty mercilessly throughout this session. I must stress that although the sound is much akin to the band playing a few feet from where you stand, no doubt quivering in fright, it's one of the clearest rehearsal recordings I've heard and you won't mistake this for an amateur band of highschool students dicking around in a basement with a ghetto blaster set on record. You can even hear Dag Nilsen's bass sometimes, though admittedly it is the one element that's somewhat buried. He does get a few cool solo spots though, just as he did on "Soulside Journey", only these are better!
So, while this may literally be "throwaway Darkthrone" it certainly doesn't deserve to be forgotten. While you could argue that it's unfortunate the band scrapped these songs, some of which may be rather embryonic, you could also say that this recording really is the way these compositions were meant to be put forward. Fenriz and Nocturno might not agree, but I certainly find it so: Fitting and deserving of your undivided attention, particularly if you're a Darkthrone fan who loves death metal but just doesn't think that the Soulside is quite moribund enough.
Goatlord is Darkthrone’s sixth album by time of release and their second by time of composition. The music is basically death metal from their rehearsal era with vocals added in 1994, including backing vocals by Satyr of Satyricon and female vocals allegedly recorded by Fenriz himself. Unfortunately this is quite a weak combination of sounds and one which ultimately ruins this album.
The death metal instrumental work here is relatively good. Some parts like the end of the opener, Rex, are actually quite good, as are parts from other songs. This is just on the instrumental side though, and nothing here reaches what I’ve heard neither from Soulside Journey nor from Darkthrone’s demos. For example, the 9-minute instrumental Snowfall easily kills this entire album in terms of technicality and songwriting and it’s been recorded in 1988 for the “A New Dimension” demo. Goatlord isn’t much more than a rehearsal with vocals added later on and this painfully shows.
The vocals are what take this album to the brink of being complete shit. First of all, Nocturno Culto’s standard black metal rasp isn’t too bad compared to the rest of the vocals on the album but even this rasp is inferior to almost everything he’s done on other albums. Then we have the clean vocals. I don’t know who does them, but they fucking suck. And finally in the vocal department we have the female vocals. I don’t really care if Fenriz became an audio transvestite while doing them or if someone else did them because either way they suck and have no place on this album. Now I can appreciate both clean and female vocals but here they’re executed in such a laughable way that they nearly eliminate all potential enjoyment for this album.
Lyrically this is pretty standard stuff for either black metal or death metal…stuff about death, darkness and some anti-Christian stuff here and there. They’re not bad but nothing to get excited about either.
Now I haven’t heard the newer Darkthrone albums which are considered crap or sell-outs by many reviewers. In fact the only albums done after Goatlord’s release that I’ve heard are Total Death and Hate Them but they’re both far better and well written than this. Goatlord’s just a death metal rehearsal with added vocals (which are shitty for the most part). It should be regarded as such when one considers buying this. While a couple of listens might be worth your time only consider getting this after all other Darkthrone albums or if you’re interested in the period between the first and second Darkthrone albums.
Goatlord, or perhaps the end of a career? Call it what you will, but Darkthrone still made the decision to release this material. Is it fair to say it was unnecessary? I'd say so. Just as things were going well for Darkthrone, they messed it up by allowing Goatlord to be heard by the adoring fans world-wide. It's symbolic of the beginning of the end for a band who showed so much promise and potential.
There are numerous failings when it comes to Goatlord. As the material comes from a rehearsal tape, it is quite obviously and expectedly poor quality in terms of production. Lo-fi and scratchy in sound, hearing each instrument can become a challenge. Given the fact that there isn't much to appreciate here, perhaps challenging one's self to being able to decipher everything over the poor quality production is the only worthwhile thing to do. The vocals are substandard. Considering the fact that Fenriz claims to have recorded the 'female' vocals himself gives the listener a clear indication of what to expect. I'm not sure what these 'female' vocals are meant to add in terms of depth and additional qualities. I'm not a huge fan of female vocals as it is. There are even some form of clean vocals present, which adds to the confusing surrounding this full-length.
The fact that the vocals vary throughout is somewhat confusing and isn't necessary, just like the release of this full-length in general. Deep growls, tortured screams and whiny high pitched vocals reign supreme. It's hard to find a justification for this album considering it was recorded between what most people call their best albums to date. It would be somewhat understandable if the material was recorded years before they produced their best work, but it wasn't. It was practically in their prime. It makes no sense for them to release this amateurish, inept and unskilled piece of work.
Simplicity has never really been an issue for me, but Goatlord showcases a dull and lifeless form of simplicity that won't live on in the memory for any positive reasons.
Sometimes it truly is best to let sleeping dogs lie. Darkthrone had probably never considered this when approached by new label Moonfog about releasing their second album proper, “Goatlord”. The album was actually shelved at the time of its demo recordings in 1991 to make way for the classic “A Blaze In The Northern Sky” as the band developed a far more extreme Black Metal sound than on their debut, “Soulside Journey”. Judging by the material on offer, it is not entirely surprising that the entire album was abandoned in favour of a different, yet now classic, Darkthrone approach.
The album consists of ten tracks taken directly from a rehearsal tape from 1990 and 1991, with the vocals not recorded until 1994. It is a reminder as to what Darkthrone could have ended up sounding like for their entire lengthy career were it not for the intervention of ex-Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and his encouraging the band to take an alternate musical path. Not unsurprisingly, the style of Metal that Darkthrone played at this time was not a world apart from what they were to become but “Goatlord” definitely shows a band playing a style more akin to mid-paced Death Metal than downright Black Metal.
Production-wise, the tracks have retained a certain natural sound from the rehearsal tapes, yet Nocturno Culto’s latterly recorded vocals sound too removed from the music and not nearly as menacing as would be expected from a leading Black Metal vocalist. Such weak vocal performances are exemplified on tracks like “Pure Demoniac Blessing” and “Black Daimon”. Drummer Fenriz also contributes some frankly embarrassing feminine sounding vocals on tracks like “(The) Grimness Of Which Shepherds Mourn” and “Toward(s) The Thornfields” which sound even more inappropriate and unquestionably should not have been included.
The music itself on “Goatlord” emanates amateurism and an attempt by the band to sound far more technical than their ability would seem to permit. Although the songs are taken from rehearsals, many of the guitar riffs and drum patterns are either dreary and tiresome or over the top and cluttered. Opener “Rex” is the perfect example of such a lack of focus within the music, rapidly but imperfectly changing speed and direction throughout and sounding nothing but awkward and ungainly as a result.
Unfortunately, this is simply a Darkthrone album that did not need to be released and Moonfog’s motives for doing so are quite ambiguous. It is vaguely interesting to hear what the band were originally planning to release as their sophomore effort, yet the music is extremely misleading, sounding more like a third rate 80s Death Metal band in the early demo stages than actually representing the veritable immensity of Darkthrone. This is one for the fanatics and exceptionally curious only.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk
Let me begin by saying that I'm pretty familiar with both versions of this album and that this review is not so much to critique the music (which totally rules), more this particular release instead. I first heard "Goatlord," but after being curious about some of the tracks that were left off I downloaded the "Clamor" version. I listened to it for a while and then eventually decided that I wanted to go back to the slightly more crisp (although trebly) sound on "Goatload." The transition back never happened because once I got used to hearing it without vocals I couldn't stand this version. I never noticed it before, but the vocals seem like they are twice as loud as the music and they are terrible to boot. They sound like Fenriz vomiting all over a mic. Instead of the excellent music all I can pay attention to is the almost constant and distrorted "BARF" sound. I can't turn it up to hear the music better because then the vocals will shred my ears. The only time this doesn't make me want to puke all over myself is when the "female" vocals come in every so often. I love them because they are very strange, eerie and beautiful, but with a delightfully disturbing (not because of sheer volume, heh) undercurrent. While they are cool and unique, they are not enough to save this from it's single, fatal and tragic flaw. My guess is that they made the vocals too loud intentionally so that maybe people wouldn't give it a chance and would foolishly assume that the problem was with the "soulless, all tech, no heart, bullshit" prog metal thereby sabotaging the release, further distancing themselves from their very creative/musical past. That sounds like a conspiracy, but hey some people will believe anything so what the fuck... Bottom line is that they should have released it without the vocals. The fact that they added them makes it feel like a "cash-in" trying to pass as a normal album. IT'S A SIX YEAR-OLD REHEARSAL TAPE WITH OVERDUBS FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!! That's not an album, it's just cheap. Forget about this unless you are a Darkthrone fanatic and/or feel that you absolutely must supporting these filthy whores. Just get "Clamor" instead.
Despite some serious changes (talking especially 'bout the female vocals and mixture of black and death) made on this album that pissed off the hyperkvlt worshippers of Darkthrone, this is another gem in Darkthrone's darkened crown. Goatlord is more complex than anything that Darkthrone recorded before (except, let's say, Soulside Journey), Fenriz shows all his skills on this and eradicating any traditional song structure, changing rhythms in an insane way and making everything sound chaotic and destructive. Guest vocals were made on this by Satyr, and the result was not bad at all: the guttural growls are mixed with the screeching well-known attack, spoken parts, laughs and (horror!) female chanting. Actually, the female chanting sounds great, it amplifies the perverted nature of this masterpiece. The riffs became weirder than on the other albums, because we can find both black and death identities on this, resulting into whirlwind sewer-sounding riffs that are melodic and furious at the same time. Every song on this is great.
Darkthrone fans and more open-minded listeners will enjoy this a lot.
I think I should start this review with the general introduction to this album, namely it’s history.
This album was originally recorded immediately after Soulside Journey and was just some rehearsals of 1990-1992 period. Later on, in 1994 the vocals were put to music. Finally, in the year of 1996 it was released on Satyr’s (Satyricon) label Moon fog productions.And now about the album itself.
Musically this album is something between black and death metal and is the only album that at some point is similar to Soulside Journey. Music is mainly slow paced, with lots of cold, grim melodies woven into it, it does not have wall of noise as on the upcoming albums by Darkthrone. Guitars here sound rather clear but already near to Black Metal albums of Darkthrone. Song structures are rather chaotic. As it is mainly slow-paced album there are almost no blast beats in here, or it is better to say they appear here from time to time in faster parts of songs. This album has a poor production but Black Metal and especially Darkthrone are not about good production . Music is the main. This poor production adds naturality and grimness to the album.
Vocals here deserve special attention. Many vocal samples were used during its recording: from death metal growling vocals to black metal kind and from clear voice to female vocals at the background.
Interesting moment: lyrics of Gotalord partially can be met in songs of Under the Funeral Moon album (compare “Rex”, “Pure Demoniac Blessing” and “Crossing the Triangle of Flames”; “Pure Demoniac Blessing”, “The Grimness of Which Shepherds Mourn”, “Sadomasachistic Rites” and “The Summer of Diabolical Holocaust” (these two songs are composed into one song on Under the Funeral moon (“The Summer of Diabolical Holocaust”) ; “As Desertshadows”, “In His Lovely Kingdom” and “The Dance of Eternal Shadows”). So one can notice that UTFM album enroots from Goatlord.
In general this album ,is melancholic ,depressing ,dark ,gloomy ,grim ,evil ,unholy and balsphemous.
To agree with this review one must understand the album and to understand it one must listen to it attentively for atleast 5 times.
Not recommended for people new to Darkthrones works and to True Norwegian Black. Because even some of DT fans dislike this album. And mainly people consider this to be a cash grab , sell out etc.
This is the first Darkthrone CD I got and I found the instruments used for the album very strange (due to your everyday 'Black Metal' production i.e. crap) but the production of the guitar makes it sound like it was recorded in a tunnel or something.
It was originally the second album after Soulside Journey (which is more of a Death metal album than ye usual Darkthrone Black metal material) but was never released until the band joined Satyr's Moonfog record label. And Satyr thought when he got hands on the master tapes "Hey, I could get Culto to sing so I could release this as a full length and get all the kiddes to buy it and make me rich!". Satyr makes a guess appearance in the first and forth songs "Rex" and "Sadomasohistic Rites".
Vocals: They were basically spoken, in the black metal sense, over the music and doesn't really the pattern of the sound at all though there is a range of vocals, some roars here and there to even it out. The backing vocals sound feminine and a Darkthrone veteran would find these out of place. (do female backing vocals appear in other Darkthrone releases? answers on a postcard)
Guitar: It sounds weak here without the drums and spoken vocals. They don't sound evil at all, they just huff and puff but couldn't blow a straw house down, they're only effective in a "sneak and nip at your ankles" way.
Bass: Where? It must be buried and abosrbed by the guitar because I can't hear it anywhere at all.
Drums: Before the vocals were added on the songs, the drums were the dominant instrument in the mix and they can drown the guitar in a beat, the snare sounds tinny (but not to the extent of the dustbins of St. Anger, thank fuck, though it's more like a sound that you would get from tapping a triangle, which is something you would know about in music lessons at school).
In spite of the poor production, some songs are worth listening (Black Daimon adds 20% and the vocals for Toward(s) the Thornfields also add 5% as well) to the reviews final total) to so it may be worth your while to download Goatlord before thinking of parting with your money and giving it to Moonfog.
Best songs: Rex, As Desertshadows, Black Daimon, Toward(s) the Thornfields
If you've ever heard Darkthrone, then you probably think that you know what to expect from a Darkthrone album. I'll say first and foremost that Goatlord--which was actually recorded immediately after Soulside Journey, before Darkthrone's transition to their more recognizable form first seen on A Blaze In The Northern Sky--defies any expectations.
Goatlord is a strange album, indeed. For starters, most of the vocals resemble spoken words (albeit in a black metal voice) rather than singing, usually following no rhythm or pattern and coming at seemingly random intervals during the music. However, the vocals are where this album really shines. Throughout the album many different voices and samples are used, including but not limited to clean vocals, tortured screams, Nocturno's patented black growls, and even vocal samples resembling a female voice. Now whether or not this female voice is actually a female or just a modulated male voice, I have no idea.
Really the only problem I have with the album are the instruments. For one thing, the vocals almost completely drown them out due to the production used. The drums are not really noticeable and the bass can not be discerned from the guitar. That being said, the guitar throughout the album is easily forgotten, only standing out on one or two songs, namely "In His Lovely Kingdom" and "Green Cave Float", which also happen to be the best two songs on the album.
So really, with a more appropriate production and a slight reworking of some of the guitar parts, the album would be a very memorable one. As it is, Goatlord is decent, but a bit mediocre. Highlights: "(The) Grimness Of Which Sheperds Mourn", "Sadomasochistic Rites", "In His Lovely Kingdom", and "Green Cave Float".