Goatpsalm – Downtrodden (2016)

Though this is my first exposure to the long-running act, formed from members of the black/death act Sickrites in ’09, I must say that I’m quite impressed by what is their third full-length release in Downstream. I usually get a little upset when I’m just now hearing about a great act and am expected to review them based on what they’ve just released aside from the band’s other two (undoubtedly interesting) releases, but that appears to be the case here. I feel that I need to mention aside from H who controls the majority of vocal output on the record as well as the bass and synths, we also have Frozen Ocean member Vaarwel who handles both the acoustic and electric guitars as well as flutes and a slew of other things. You may have already read some of our reviews of Frozen Ocean’s work and how highly we’ve praised it, so you can get a sort of glimpse that the material here should be just as good, if not even better. According to my press release here, fans of acts like Avrigus, Hagalaz Residence (which I believe I’ve heard) Indesinence and doom metallers Evoken will find something here. Surely that can be said for opener “Grey Rocks” which of course has that unmistakable doom feel. As well as “Flowers Of The Underworld” in which hoary growls and deep doom riffs fill the area. But not after you’ve heard the sounds of a tribe first. It’s actually quite a bit funny, as I recall in an interview with the mastermind behind Frozen Ocean that he said he was a scientist. A very important one, to be precise – yet he’s doing these weird metaphysical tribal atmospheres at the same time, which I feel are almost the antithesis of scientific thinking, the known diving into the unknown and perhaps unknowable (at least in the current age.) Yet I figure working at a laboratory must be rather stifling, cold and inherently logical. Though there’s a bit of imagination required in such a scientific mode of thinking, it’s not something I would feel is an outright requirement of a logic that deals completely in facts. By nature, science absolutely must deal in facts. There’s no getting around it, as per the Scientific Method. Hence we have the realm of unknown that is Goatpsalm, which feels almost like an unexplored occult territory, brilliantly described in the leaflet as the land that exists beyond dreams.

Not everything here is so forlorn though, as “White Sea” feels more like the electronic explorations heard more recently in Frozen Ocean’s work, except done by H and not Vaarwel. I don’t think there’s any drumming from Kim on such a piece either, as it is wholly electronic and some might even say, out of place. But on a record that does indeed seem rather dreamlike, it fits. This is because the nature of a dream is indeed rather chaotic and without notion of boundaries. Keeping this in mind, the record still feels very doom/death at heart and more often than not, are these tracks swept up in slow and tumultuous doom riffs. But when they’re not exploring doom, these four musicians (the fourth, Sadist also handles some acoustics and backing vocals) rather enjoy their soundscapes, such as “The Waylayer – A Great Spring…” seems to convey. This instrumental piece, like “White Sea” takes a break from the doom and death excursion to bring us more whirling effects as well as didgeridoos which definitely make for a more primal and overly ancient atmosphere. Most of the music I’ve experienced here on Downstream sounds like it comes from the ancient history of man himself. It’s definitely an alternative to the cold and structured environments apparent within scientific musings and feels like something altogether more ethereal. There’s definitely an element of darkness here, a bold grim darkness which I can sense even within the most saccharine of atmospheres; but Downstream simply doesn’t come ready to embrace you in it’s loving arms. There’s something more devious deep within the confides of this album and I feel that it’s well worth exploring. Goatpsalm are definitely still metal and perhaps still “evil” for lack of a better term, maybe we’d want to say “grim?” But they’re so much more than that, which I feel makes for a good listen, as long as you’re the intended audience. This psalm is certainly not for everyone.

(7 Tracks, 58:00)

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