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A Goat Of Note - 92%

Hellbent, March 30th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2001, CD, Peaceville Records (Enhanced)

Many a band has foundered in the face of following up a brilliant debut album of the kind that Akercocke had released in 1999, in the shape of Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene. Relatively speaking, bands have a lifetime to write a debut and almost no expectation or external pressure. Suddenly finding themselves at the forefront of cutting-edge extreme metal, with the eyes of a newly-formed fanbase on them, The Goat Of Mendes would very much determine whether the promise of their debut could be fulfilled, or whether they would simply become another band who burned like a match, brightly, but momentarily, before the fire is extinguished. The plethora of ideas contained on their debut, together with the hints of a greater musical versatility that they were unable to fully explore on the previous album certainly boded well for the future, and suggested that it was unlikely that they would run out of steam quickly. It takes only minutes for The Goat Of Mendes to confirm that this is indeed the case, and in fact the band’s second album exceeds its predecessor in all respects, building on already solid foundations to create a monument capable of comfortably weathering the corrosive passage of time.

As if to underscore the fact that The Goat Of Mendes very much takes everything that worked so brilliantly on the previous album to another level of sophistication and intensity, the opening track ‘Of Menstrual Blood And Semen’ commences in a way that is eerily reminiscent of ‘Hell’ from its predecessor, a maelstrom of painfully dissonant guitars quickly giving way to aggressive, speed-laden death metal, with their trademark schizophrenic, overlapping vocals trading deep guttural growls with higher-register black metal screams. And where Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene was marred, at least in part, by it’s weak production, there are no such misgivings this time round. The guitars retain their trebly, almost Morrisound crunch, the flashes of synth add sonic depth to what otherwise might feel a slightly dry mix, and most importantly for a band for whom complex rhythmic patterns are such an integral part of their sound, the drums are crisp and powerful, and now weaponised to the level that David Gray’s skilful contribution merits. The sheer energy and vitality of this (and virtually every other) track on the album is hugely invigorating, but there is much more to enjoy than merely the simplistic brutality of warp-speed tremolo riffing. Akercocke have a wonderful ability to ally the linear riffing of early-90s death metal (particularly Morbid Angel) with the kind of tension-filled unusual chord voicings of prime Godflesh, which lends a modern, almost urban feel to their metallic assault, and this is particularly apparent on this opener. The inchoate songwriting ability of the debut is allowed to fully flourish on The Goat Of Mendes too, and many of the best tracks are spectacular epics that contain numerous memorable sections, but move fluently from one section to another. After the frenetic start, ‘Of Menstrual Blood And Semen’ is the first such example, moving through a complex instrumental segment, which recalls Absu with its use of Eastern-sounding modes, before the guitars make way for a lascivious-sounding electronic section, Akercocke’s broad range of genre influences coming to the fore, before everything comes to a majestic conclusion after seven captivating minutes.

The Goat Of Mendes is rarely anything less than spellbinding, but its status as a modern-day extreme classic hinges on a trio of songs that are superficially quite similar in their utilisation of the band’s newly confident ability to deploy catchy clean vocal melodies, far outstripping some tentative steps in this direction on Akercocke’s debut release. Of course, the incorporation of clean vocals into the armoury of almost any extreme metal act has long been viewed by some as indicative of a craven shift into more commercially viable territory and therefore as a kind of betrayal of true metal values, but this kind of thinking is tedious and simple-minded. It is of course undeniable that Akercocke enjoyed greater success after the release of The Goat Of Mendes, and the more palatable nature of some of their tracks in a mainstream metal setting may indeed have had something to do with this, but just as likely is the simple fact that their first album had been acclaimed in such a way that a greater level of hype and anticipation for its follow-up would inevitably translate into sales, This was also greatly assisted by the fact that it was released by Peaceville, a significant and credible metal label with strong distribution. Additionally, it should also be stated that the antipathy towards clean vocals in metal is both laughable and hypocritical, given the line that can almost always be drawn from any extreme metal band back through thrash, NWOBHM and eventually to Black Sabbath, where clean melodic vocals are of course an integral part of the genesis of metal. Clean vocals are simply another colour to paint with, another texture that can be used to increase the number of possible paths that any given song can explore. Clearly, depending on a band’s core sound, there will be some paths that might remain perpetually off-limits – it’s difficult to imagine any parts of the back catalogues of Autopsy, Cannibal Corpse or Von being improved by contributions of an operatically-trained tenor. However, for a band as versatile as Akercocke, adding another string to the bow can only enhance what they do, and that is resolutely the case here.

The first of this trio of parallel universe hit singles is ‘A Skin For Dancing In’. The title alone, at once both alluringly salacious and primitively animalistic, is enough to draw in the listener, and the musical content more than matches its promise, a perfect aural creation of the decadent images of the nocturnal bacchanal that it evokes. This track runs virtually the entire gamut of the Akercocke sound, but as ever, the band’s ability to combine what should be disparate and incongruous elements into a single glorious whole prevents things from becoming in any way disjointed. The drum ‘n’ bass rhythms that have been hinted at previously are in full effect in the first section of the song, with the chunky understated guitars taking a back seat through the electronically-augmented verses, before what could be seen as the second movement sees the band blast for Satan as enthusiastically and ferociously as they ever have, frontman Jason Mendonca sinisterly intoning ‘Escape into the woods’, and adding to the atmosphere. From there, the song takes flight through a series of complex rhythmic changes, David Gray’s drumming once again propelling the band to new heights, and otherwordly guitar harmonies decorate the brutality of the riffing. Finally, the chorus releases all of the pent-up tension in a rush of gothic grandeur, lush synth instrumentation recalling the wave of late-90s melancholic metal, where it seemed that a small section of the scene discovered goth and prog simultaneously, resulting in the glorious, sweeping weirdness of bands such as Tiamat, …In The Woods, and Winds. Approximately five godlike riffs later, a song of quite outlandish brilliance comes to an end, and one imagines that they can’t possibly repeat the trick once more, having surely exhausted their well of ideas.

For many bands that would be the case, but Akercocke are not many bands. ‘Horns Of Baphomet’ is the sound of lightning striking twice, another multi-part epic this time operating in a slower, more stately tempo, Mendonca’s plaintive alto a suitable match for the sombre melodies of the chorus. ‘Horns Of Baphomet’ demonstrates the band’s growing ability to create beautifully layered music, with the subtle use of gossamer light acoustic guitars blending almost imperceptibly with crunching arpeggios facilitating fluid transitions through the many dimensions of the track, before Akercocke show their ability to master death metal of a slow and grinding nature, as well as the blasting tremolo that tends to be their preference. ‘He Is Risen’ completes what feels like a trilogy of monstrous scale, again showcasing the band’s magnificent ability to combine complex and intricate death metal riffing, with dissonant chords, and black metal vocals and atmosphere. The horn-assisted pummelling blast that drives the song relentlessly towards its conclusion is possibly the high point of the entire record, standing as a testament to the manifestation of a grander vision than most bands can even aspire to, let alone realise.

If the aforementioned tracks heralded the arrival of Akercocke as a world-class metal band that could stand comparison with any of their peers, this is not to imply that the rest of The Goat Of Mendes fails to impress. In fact, the album is remarkably consistent, and there are thrilling moments to be found throughout. ‘Masks Of God’ benefits from the record’s smart sequencing, surprising with intense, Suffocation-style technical death metal from the first beat, contrasting with the slightly more measured approach that the band tend to adopt to building a song ordinarily, and the groovy thrash feel that runs through much of the rest of the track uncharacteristically emphasises the rhythm guitars, at times even approaching the mechanised rattle of Fear Factory, before a pyrotechnic instrumental section brings us back to more familiar territory. Even the brief classical interlude of ‘Fortune My Foe’, a mournful piece of chamber music, is in keeping with the overall mood of the album, and skilfully serves to connect Akercocke’s music to something less obviously rooted in the 21st century, suggesting that they are able to tap into an ageless evil, in the same way that the classical guitar pieces on Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality add an arcane mystique to the sound of another legendary British metal band.

Reinforcing the perfection of the album’s sequencing, it is hard to imagine The Goat Of Mendes concluding with any other track than ‘Ceremony Of Nine Angles’. Running to nearly nine minutes, the track is an almost unbearably intense epic that pushes the band’s bombastic ambition further than ever before. The tremolo blast is a common feature of the band’s sound, but the technicality and choice of notes tends to draw from classic death metal, rather than the kind of icy, minor key modes that characterise black metal. On this track, however, Akercocke dive headlong into black metal territory, attacking the opening riff with the kind of fevered mania of Impaled Nazarene, circa Tol Kormpt Norz Norz Norz…, gradually building to a symphonic climax that recalls Emperor or Abigor. The band truly slip the leash across the ferocious final minutes of the album, with Gray’s tom rolls going off like artillery rounds, and layered choral drones generating an overwhelming wave of sound that finally breaks as Mendonca is heard speaking a final incantation: ‘Thou art my master: Satan!’. The whole thing is nothing less than an ecstatic hymn to the power of the horned one, and displays the kind of awe and power that one imagines would satisfy him.

The Goat Of Mendes is nothing short of a monumental achievement. Deservedly hailed as such on its release, if anything, it has improved with age, so rarely has it been surpassed since, within its milieu at least. Frequently, one cannot help but feel that contemporary extreme metal albums sometimes opt for duration over quality, as if the mere passing of time denotes epic scale and scope, and what could have been an excellent 40 minute album instead becomes a 75 minute test of endurance. Akercocke’s second album, however, is a 60 minute album that is hugely grandiose, and yet feels like a tight, concise album of the type that Death or Deicide would have released in the halcyon days of classic death metal. Lengthy tracks fly by, primarily because of the strength of the material and the fluency of the composition, which ensures that what could seem cold and calculated in fact feels organic and (in)human. This album is a towering classic that fulfils the huge potential of Akercocke’s debut, in a disdainful display of metal might for the ages.

First published here:
https://alifetimeofmusic537956501.wordpress.com/2021/03/26/akercocke-the-goat-of-mendes/

Evil - 87%

matt85210, July 23rd, 2009

First of all, it must be said that I have started with Akercocke's most recent work and slowly purchased my way back into their earlier albums. As any Akercocke fan knows, their later stuff is far more experimental and progressive; threads of Pink Floyd and Rush weave their way through Akercocke's otherwise full on blackened death assault, making albums like 'Words That Go Unspoken...' progressive, and at times almost jazzy, in their sound.


Their second album, 'The Goat of Mendes', is a different musical prospect. The progressive elements are still tangible somewhere amidst the chaos, but they manifest in an altogether different form of uncomfortable chords and uneasy, sludgy harmonies that are then whipped up into a blackened frenzy by David Gray's machine-gun drumming. Opener 'Of Menstrual Blood and Semen', for example, is a true highlight, rife with guitars grating against each other, thunderous blastbeats and possibly the most hideous high screech-vocals ever to come out of a human throat. But, and this can be said for any song on the album, it doesn't spend its entire time with its afterburners on; it meanders its way through a variety of different musical styles, constantly changing and keeping the listener guessing.


'The Horns of Baphomet' begins as a sludgy, slow, HEAVY track that draws you in with its intriguing musical style before once again knocking the senses out of you with, again, one of the most blitzing pieces of drum wizardry by David Gray, but it is Jason Mendonca that really comes into his own on this song, employing every vocal technique under the sun, from death metal growl to black metal shriek, melodic clean passages, demonic barks and chanted sermons, effortlessly switching between them all.


The black metal element of Akercocke's music is far more present in this album than, for example, in 'Words That Go Unspoken...'. Horrendous, raw black metal borrowed from the likes of 1349, Xasthur and Anaal Nathrakh. However, it's black metal with several twists. Firstly, the production makes this release far more palatable than the production normally associated with the normal raw/bestial black metal release. Secondly, the album boasts a hugely varied selection of instruments, (testimony to the bands ability) including Violin, cello, trumpet, sasz (a wind instrument), and clarinet. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the album, both lyrically and musically, displays a sense of maturity in confronting the more sinister elements of Satanic philosophy that would be otherwise lost on the average 'satanic' black metal band.


This is an amazing CD. Discomforting, cold, sinister, plain fucking evil, yet out of all the darkness and sheer musical intensity, some sense is made. The interludes are appropriate, yet don't outstay their welcome, the musicianship is blistering, and the songwriting keeps things interesting, literally, from the beginning to the end, which in extreme music such as this is a rarity.


Who would I recommend this album to? Anyone who enjoys well-written and interesting metal music, ANYONE who is a fan of blackened death metal, and anyone who is thinking of starting up a raw black metal band. I like to think I don't give out high scores very easily, but this cd more than merits it. Go, get yourself a copy, and enjoy it.

A Marked Improvement. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, February 18th, 2008

Two years have passed since Akercocke's first venture, 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene'. This time Akercocke have returned with a more substantial offering in 'The Goat of Mendes'. It is practically twenty minutes longer than the previous full-length and whilst this initially worried me, it later became somewhat of a blessing in disguise. Akercocke appear to leave themselves two years in which to prepare new material and with each new release, they appear to get better. 'The Goat of Mendes' is a more focused offering than the previous. The main problem I found with the debut was it's distinct lack of direction. It merely seemed to be floating in and out of a raw black metal style, but with clean production. It's primitive ways might have been appealing if there had been more in the way of direction and overall quality in the guitar department. Having said that, 'The Goat of Mendes' appears to have learned a lot of lessons from the previous number. It's a more focused album, as I said.


The problems of 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' were hard to miss. For all the aggression it contained, it had no way of harnessing it. As the problems began to mount, one could see no way back for it. However, the story has changed this time round. That's the good thing about music. You can fuck it up time and again, but when you get it right, you get it fucking right! 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' was imperfection at it's most mediocre, but 'The Goat of Mendes' is a work in progress. Whilst it's not perfect, far from it, it's acceptable for what it is. A far more polished piece of black metal, which is seemingly being fused with death metal. The crossover genre is a hard one to nail. You have to add just the right amount of black metal to keep it's fans happy, and the right amount of death metal to keep it's fans happy. If you add too much of one and not enough of the other, one set of fans will be left unhappy. Generally, I have tend to find that you're either a major fan of one or the other. It's either black metal you love, or death metal, rarely both and rarely equally. I consider myself a black metal fan at heart, so 'The Goat of Mendes' offers me a lot to be pleased with. The rasping vocals are much more in tuned with the audience. One can relate better to the vocal styling on this effort than on the previous which left a lot to be desired. The vocals are stronger and leave a much better lasting impression than that did on the previous album. With 'The Goat of Mendes' the audience is introduced to a new style of vocals that comes into play a lot more with later albums, those clean vocals which are brilliant on tracks such as 'Horns Of Baphomet'. They're immense of later albums, but are a work in progress here. They're by no means lacking in stage presence or quality. They just come as a stark contrast to the aggressive nature of Akercocke.


Having said that, Akercocke seem to be a lot more relaxed these days. Whilst 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' was fixed on circulating aggression around the room for thirty minutes straight, this effort is wide ranging. No longer are Akercocke's soundscapes fixed to one point, but they are beginning to venture away from the original sound. With the inclusion of a lot more adventure, the dimension of the band changes. Sounds like 'Horns Of Baphomet' are a fine example. The use of two guitars, playing two separate riffs at one time is essential. One plays a more constant riff, fuelled by aggression, whilst the other plays a sweeping sweet sound over the top. This use of layers helps Akercocke in proving a point. They're not one dimensional and innovative guitar work can play a significant role in their song structures. Musicianship needs to be duly noted. The contrast between musicianship on this album compared to the last is astonishing. Akercocke have seriously worked hard at improving all elements of their game. The percussion side to their sound has improved. It's no longer languishing behind the rest. The bass is free roaming with it's sound. The guitars are powerful and play pinpoint riffs which adds an incredible sound as the underlay of Akercocke's music. The vocals aren't on top form as of yet, but there is a notable improvement. All in all, 'The Goat of Mendes' is a marked improvement.

SAAATAAAAANNN!!!!! - 85%

Thorned_Earth, September 1st, 2006

The Goat of Mendes is a stellar example of how well the combination of death and black metal can turn out, especially with a dash of experimentation.

This album always stuck with me for being more cohesive than the other releases. They had yet to truly splinter, and were still just augmenting their extreme metal with the keyboard and clean vocal experiments that appear here, which makes a more consistent listen than constant trade-offs, and I still think the extreme side of this album is more compelling and interesting than the brutal half of the later albums. The songs here are well written and excellently played, full of great riffs and manic solos, and the production is clear enough without sacrificing the necessary atmosphere. The vocals are magnificent. Jason Mendonca takes on a number of styles and employs them all to great effect, from brutally guttural death growls, to tortured black metal shrieking, emotive clean singing, and so on. And even if the band's over the top satanic themes don't suit you, you can't help but smile along with the occasional random cry of "SAATAAAN!!!!!!" that comes out of nowhere on any given Akercocke album. The drumming is intense. David Gray is as fast and precise as you could hope for in a black/death drummer, but also more interesting than most. He doesn't fill his playing with abundant and unecessary polyrythms or fucking latin american percussion like some assholes, nor does he just blast beat for the entirety of the album. Instead he uses his considerable talents to serve the music, and only rips your face off when it's absolutely necessary (which does still happen often enough).

A solid release with some excellent tracks ("A Skin for Dancing In" and "Horns of Baphomet" among them), this album is obviously of interest to fans of the band, but also worth checking out for anyone else who likes their death metal blackened and interesting.

Black/Death British Masters - 90%

Dumdum, October 11th, 2004

This is the second finest blend of black and death metal I have ever heard! Its just seamless.
Choronzon, their third Album, being the best, and is by far the better of the bunch, but, this is on a different level to most other hard played Black/ death metal out there.
Of Menstrual Blood and Seamen (nice) lets you really get a feel of what to expect on this satanic rollercoaster. Its a blast of black metal wailing with screamed vocals to match, that as quick as they start, roll into some down tuned thrashing with gutteral death metal grunting. Its a great opener that really stamps it authority as skillfully executed extreme playing.
A Skin For Dancing In gives us our first listen to Mendonca's clean vocal talent, and to be honest it works very well. He also lays down some very deep death growls on this track. The blast beats that accompany the solo around the 6:30 minute mark are just quality! It all works so well !!!
Betwixt Iniqutatis... is a cleverly composed instrumental.It has female vocals. It has horns (!!) that on first listening seem a little out of place with the keyboard tones, but given a few listens it all blends together to create a very dark and forboding death chime. The "demonic" drone is another great touch, that reminds me of the killer trees in "Evil Dead". That unseen horror that you can only hear droning on, just out of sight. It ends with the horns wailing in agony whist a funeral parlour keyboard piece subtly harps away in the background.
Horns Of Baphomet starts out as a typical black metal piece, with high pitched vocals and semi accoustic guitars. Then there is a split vocal pattern with clean and screamed voices. Then it all picks up, the drums kick in, the guitars speed up and turn brutal, and the vocals go deep!!!!! A thrasher of a tune once it gets going, with the constant black metal edge, but much more a death metal track than the previous ones.
Masks of God is a straight out blast fest with some amazing arrangements.
The Serpent has a distinct Norwegian feel to its opening, with the best bass solo I've heard in ages. It just creates the moment so well, before helping the song to blast off into another savage barrage of drums, guitar thrashing and old school black metal style vocals (Darkthrone-esque).
Fortune My Foe is a classical style piece that breaks up the blasting this album has put you through up to this point. It also works well as the next track, Infernal Rites, opens with a solo guitar and drum beat that then rolls into a mid paced arrangement, that then sets off on a gallop, coupled with some clean vocals. Then it just goes crazy and smashes its way through mid paced and fast paced blasting, ands lots of screaming!!!

The rest of the album you'll just have to find out for yourself.
Suffice to say that this is a disk of sheer greatness. If you like brutal death metal, intense black metal, well written, catchy (but nasty) songs and the occasional all out blast beat, then this is for you.

How rare for a British band - great. - 95%

StianMorgan, September 4th, 2004

Britain has sent out many bands into the battlefield of metal, some of them very important, Venom and Cradle of Filth being two of the most famous and now there is Akercocke. Drummer David Gray and vocalist/guitarist Jason Mendonca, the founding members, have been making music together since the early 90s, and they know how to entertain. Take some intense death metal, black metal, with the most Satanic lyrics ever born, and five musicians with immense tightness and you get with The Goat of Mendes.

The album opens with the forever changing and brutal song ‘Of Menstrual Blood and Semen’, but this is only the start of hour’s long onslaught. From start to finish the album is packed full of original ideas, intimidating riffs and vocals and total fucking black-heartedness. The next two tracks are rather low-key, preparing you for the rest of the album, one being ‘A Skin for Dancing In’ a good song but nothing in comparison with what is to come.

The next one ‘Betwixt Inquitatis’ and ‘Prostigiators’a short track where you experience how haunting the trumpet really can be creating an atmosphere for track 4, ‘Horns of Baphomet’, which you can find the video for at the Official Akercocke Website (one of two videos they have done). This song shows Akercocke’s full ability and talent, which is regurgitated in different formats and news ideas through out the rest of the album. Track 6 – ‘The Serpent’ features Hecate Enthroned’s Dean Seddon, accompanying Mendonca on vocals. This song has some very dark synth and is extremely energetic with a very original sound. This burst of energy is surprisingly followed by a rather soothing violin and cello piece, ‘Fortune my Foe’, again, like ‘Betwixt Inquitatis’ and’ Prostigiators’, preparing you for the next leg of this journey into Hell. It is followed by Infernal Rites – the second song on the album to have a music video, which you can only see if you have the official release.

Moving on towards the end of the album, there then come two very dark songs. Track 11, Initiation being another ‘instrumental’ of sorts, launching you into position for the final, very imaginative track; The Ceremony of Nine Angels – and what a final it is, when this song finishes you will sit in silence for a minute plus, your mind taken over by two words – ‘Wow’, and the other one being repeated so many times throughout the album its imprinted in your brain; ‘Satan/Lucifer’.

Akercocke not only know how to make damn good music, they make music in style.

Overall, I feel that Akercocke are going to be big, big and important in the history of metal, Akercocke are another band that will do us British proud. In years to come, The Goat of Mendes will be know as one of Akercocke’s most powerful, imaginative and overall brilliant releases to date, as I said before, these guys know how to make music.