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Yet Another Way to Harm a Goat - 30%

Cat III, June 13th, 2018

Before hearing the album, Savage Souls in Sodom has a lot going for it. A teenager's imitation of Frazetta for cover art, ridiculous band name, gratuitous alliteration and the black/thrash genre tag were all signs pointing to this being good fun—maybe even an overlooked gem. After hearing the album, I can say that indeed that cover would look rad airbrushed on the side of a van.

Coming in at less than 27 minutes, this is a brief album and considering that there's an acoustic intro, a cover song, an acoustic interlude and a bonus track from an old split, it's amazing how Goat Thrower still struggles to fill the remaining 17 minutes. Simplistic mid-paced riff punctuated by faster, though still simplistic, sections of thrash and ending with an extended solo: the band were so enamored of this formula that they use it for no less than three tracks. I'm not averse to one-dimensional music especially when presented in such a concise package, provided that the one dimension is performed well. The pair who comprise Goat Thrower, The Mad Arab and Sabbatic Goat, aren't up to the task. The simplicity of their tunes doesn't translate to the catchiness of a good punk record, the violent intensity of grindcore or blast-centric black metal, or even the hypnotizing repetition of the likes of Ildjarn and Bone Awl.

That's not to say the musicians possess no redeeming qualities. Sabbatic Goat's solos are varied and never stoop into wank territory. There's often a militaristic vibe to The Mad Arab's drumming which is unique for this style and could be used to great effect in better music. Even if their performances were uniformly stellar, the album would suffer severely from one aspect of the production: the vocals. Someone thought it was a good idea to slather the vocals in effects. Much of it sounds warbled while other parts are pitch-shifted, if not to the sewer depths of goregrind, then partway in that direction. Worst is when the two are layered over each other. What does this accomplish other than to give the impression this is someone's first time dicking around with audio editing software?

This needless quirk is absent from the two best songs (or was done to such a small degree it's not noticeable). Fittingly “Knife in the Back” strikes with a swift and deadly efficiency. A strong bass line underlines the thrashing tremolo until it bursts naturally into a quick, wailing solo. Words can be picked out from Sabbatic Goat's shouts and he always seems to be saying something even when what isn't exactly clear. “Worship Me”, from the 1997 split with Lisa the Wolf (a band that, as far as I know, is most notable for having Mike Browning behind the kit), is good in an entirely different way. Lower fidelity, a longer run time and manic, yapping vocals over fuzzy guitars make it the one song that leans more toward the black end of black/thrash. Halfway through it turns into a chaos of guitars noodling and droning over sparse drumming—think of a crazed jam session.

The rest of Savage Souls in Sodom is mostly boring, made all the worse for the fact it hints at the potential of something better. Often there's an inkling of a good riff, but not the ability to flesh it out or a failure to construct a decent song in which to utilize it. They even bungle their cover of “Contempt” by Boston hardcore band Psycho. The opening riffs are slowed down and thus heavier which sounds like it's building up to something killer, but the rest of the song lacks the fist-pumping energy of the original, not to mention those damn layered vocals. “Defenders of the Iron Cross” ends with an acoustic section which is strikingly similar to the beginning of Sabbat's “Hellhouse” (Sabbat has a number of such intros but this track bears the strongest resemblance). If only the rest of the song was reminiscent of the Japanese legends.

Black/thrash has enjoyed a resurgence for a few years because, I think, it maintains much of the black metal aesthetic, but in a more accessible package. That makes it strange that of the very few other bands Goat Thrower members have been part of, one is Gonkulator whose noisy black metal is tough listening even by BM standards (which is not meant as a criticism). Perhaps that explains why The Mad Arab, or Baron Von Gonkulator as he's better known, has difficulty with conventional songwriting. Whatever the explanation, my advice is stick to gonkulating and leave throwing goats to those better qualified.