Sunday, May 3, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Ghoulgotha "The Deathmass Cloak" (2015)

I'm very excited to review this one! See my previous post reviewing Ghoulgotha live. First, as is my usual wont, I shall digress with a story. I had just finished seeing Decrepitaph play live (incredible, by the way!), and approached Elektrocutioner/Wayne, asking for a signature on my Tombstones CD, which he provided. As an aside to an aside, expect more on Tombstones and Steve-O Dobbins in a future post!

 Anyway, I inquired of Wayne what he was up to nowadays, project-wise. He started telling me about Ghoulgotha. I was VERY interested, so he sped off to get me a demo from the car. Unfortunately, he didn't have the keys and couldn't find the guitarist of Decrepitaph to see if he did. I ended up NOT getting the demo, but Wayne told me I could order it from the band. I did just that, however never received the demo despite several emails back an forth between us. Wayne responded very quickly, most likely the original demo and the second one he sent out to replace it got lost in the mail; the post office in my old zip code excelled at losing and/or not delivering packages. So, to date, I still don't have it. On the plus side, I do have copies of the 7" EP and split (which did successfully traverse the terrors of metropolitan mail) so I have ALMOST the whole collection, which is MOST CERTAINLY worth owning! I guess I'll wait for a demo reissue until then.

Lyrics: Rather beautiful and dark, the lyrics evoke an almost numinous feeling towards death and and the act of dying. Blending descriptions and adorations of nature, sorrow at self ruination, violence, disembodiment, and ritual through a mold of free-formed, grammatically perverted, stream of consciousness, labyrinthine meanderings. Imagine Ogre of Skinny Puppy and members of diSEMBOWELMENT writing a song together.

Here are two of my favorite bits (all lyrics by W. Sarantopoulos):
(from "Prophetic Oration Of Self") How calm the fog seeps through the fraud. Dampened with poison. The slow pulse to dormancy gravitates beyond wounds abstract. Prophetic oration of self.

(from "Cartilage Imperfect") This noxious gravity that sways us from life until death was born from solstice sky drawn by the hands of fate.

I shall continue my stream-of-consciousness reviewing of the album, in real time.

1. Solar Awakening (Intro)- simple piano chords and guitar feedback create an atmosphere of impending doom and general uneasiness.

2. Gazing Into Melted Night- opening with some cymbal smashes and a melancholic riff comparable to later Morgion, this song blends some really heavy riffs with the development of the melancholic theme to layer and meander about and traverse some dark emotions. It slows considerably about halfway through, leaving the melancholic bit for a while as it crushes your eardrums. The vocals start to include some subtle shrieks along with Wayne's guttural growl. The song stutters a bit and turns into a tremolo picked, near Black Metal part somewhat reminiscent of Emperor perhaps, the more complex melancholic/heavy chunking riff from the start of the song return and fade to a devastatingly heavy chord bashing on the low end with little respite before closing out the song.

3. A Neck For The Nameless Noose- a series of heavy guitar chunks flies at you then breaks into an almost Carcass-like goregrind very briefly before turning into a march-y Death Metal chunking and developing into some demented dual-guitar riffs that are plain eerie and bizarre in the way that early Autopsy can be (while sounding distinct from their sound). Melancholic bits are thrown in, sounding very diSEMEBOWELMENT like, but with less guitar effects. Suddenly the guitar drops out for some drumming to build the pace and a demented technical bit breaks in with plenty of half-step madness, then gets heavy and primitive, follows this for a while before returning to the march-y part that feels distinctly like Necrophagia. Some faster bits alternate with slower chord-holds and then breaks to the melancholic minor chord progressions mixed with the twisted Autopsy eerie riffs and return to the technical bizarre progression of half-steps. Oooooh a nice scream thrown in with some fast primitive beats ends this one.

4. Austere Urns- sloooow riffs start this one off, utilizing the heavy low end strings and minor chords to deliver its mood. This turns into a strange note progression that calls to mind Black Flag. It stutters a bit to build suspense and drops into heavy mid-paced Death Metal carnage then slows to bludgeon pace and breaks to alternate guitar riffing with another befuddling riff that shambles around in a somewhat technical fashion, like listening to a tightrope walker ALMOST fall to the pavement many stories below. The song speeds back up for some lyrical delivery then slows and gets very Autopsy-inspired. This is allowed to play out for a bit to deliver the thrust of the song's lyrics. It dispenses with the demented riffs and gets much slower, then gets technical again to close.

5. Saturnal Rites- melancholic minor chord arpeggios start this one off, followed by a fuller chord version of the progression and some bent chord demented accents as the riff develops and builds atmosphere. It breaks to a fast and primitive part to deliver the vocals. It speeds up briefly then super slows down, again briefly, plays with some faster parts alternated with the slow bits to again recall diSEMBOWELMENT in style and vocal delivery, overall very ritualistic, as the song title suggests. It flirts a bit with some Incantation-inspired riffs and then speeds up into some D-beat tempered with twisted mid-string-bends, eventually returning to the slow-then-fast ritualistic bit and drops the chords from the start of the song. It continues to develop this, again in a somewhat Incantation style, ends with what sounds like quiet gong in the background.

6. Prophetic Oration Of Self- more twisted technical riffs start the track off, tempered with slower versions of itself and Incantation riffing backing it. This plays out for a bit slightly altering the tempo and riff arrangement/accentuation. It suddenly super-slows to antarctic snail pace with heavy,  saturated feedback. It tricks you into thinking it's about to speed up with clever drumming, then pauses and maintains or slows the pace. Eventually some melancholic but almost epic guitar harmonizing kicks in to elevate the song. Just when it starts getting too melancholic, the heavy slow riff comes back, hiding just over our shoulder. The song shudders a bit and breaks into a very diSEMBOWELMENT type melancholic/ethereal riff, stutters and gets very strange, like Iron Maiden played 1/2 a step down. The song quickly slows again to molasses-in-January pace, returns to its strange Iron Maiden style (but a different riff), again it slows and stutters, settles more-or-less on a mid-pace for all instruments with again technical bits over an Incantation riff. This plays out in a beguiling fashion to fade into obscurity.

7. Arteries Unblest- Autopsy/diSEMBOWELMENT eeriness start the track off, then it suddenly breaks into mid-to-fast primitivity sure to get your heart pumping and head banging. It slows a bit for a brief respite, then speeds back up and gets a bit tougher in arrangement. It stutters into a slower and very Autopsy-inspired riff. Done playing with dead things, more diSEMBOWELMENT bits come in followed by some sad and beautiful guitar bits, somewhat like later Morgion mixed with a Heavy Metal solo. Oh man, I'm really digging this track! So far my favorite one. The song suddenly changes into mid-paced primitivity. Not finished playing with dead things, the song again gets somewhat mid-paced Autopsy-ish, then returns to the diSEMBOWELMENT riff. I'm good at creating adjectives, no?

8. Citadel Of Heathen Flesh- a depressing and oppressing heavy riff greets us at the opening of this song. It plays with some stuttering to drive some points home. It does a good job with slow-to-slightly-faster-then-much-slower riffs. It continues to play around with the riff a bit in arrangement, then slows and gets very oppressive and massive. Again, thick diSEMBOWELMENT vibes, always a good thing in my book! The riffs from earlier on are re-hashed to close out the song in  a similar fashion to its opening, slowing decreasing the speed of the song and ending on guitar feedback that fades out.

9. Cartilage Imperfect-a faster riff starts this one off, it reminds me of something that I can't put my finger on right now... Impetigo? Not quite right... maybe a Decrepitaph riff. Anyway, it's a cool riff, it slows down and blends in tiny touches of melancholy but always quickly recovers to continue on its brutal and primitive path. It gets chunkier then faster, then slower again and settles on mid-paced, breaks into an Incantation riff alternated with some Autopsy-like dementia. The song pulls a fake ending with some fake re-starts, then finally begins again with some new Autopsy worship and returns to the opening riff that I still can't quite place in my memory banks... The Autopsy vibes remain throughout the remainder of the song. Aaargh, why does that riff sound so familiar? I foresee a forehead slapper in my future!

10. Levitate Within The Curse- mid-paced, melancholic, and stuttering, I'm interested to see where this song is going to go. It slows a bit the style already put forward. It's a bit like the heavy, chunky stuff I like with long chord holds, but on the middle strings instead of the low-end ones. Interesting! It suddenly gets mega-heavy, like someone dropping mausoleum masonry on your head whilst in the midst of morbid mental meanderings. These two styles interplay a bit and mix into a solid part that then further develops with Incantation leanings to keep it super-grim. It pulls some mid-Death-like Chuck Shuldner riffs then returns to the Incantation bits and slows for emphasis. It stutters a bit for variety and gets a bit like a dying Autopsy cassette in sound. It has an outro that feels like an Italian Horror film soundtrack with a bit more futuristic synth in use. Pretty cool!

(11.) Lament Configuration (Mythic cover) [hidden track at the end of #10]- a very competent cover, but the bass sound towards the middle of the cover is very strange and anachronistic in the way of the Treblinka (Sweden) demos. Wayne's voice suits the song's style and pace well, and his guitar tone is sufficiently heavy and bloated to do the song justice.

Overall Impressions: this is another great accomplishment for Wayne Sarantopoulos, it has melancholy, heaviness, atmosphere, primitivity and technicality in equal occurrence and is a perverse pleasure to listen to. As my above descriptions portray, the album sounds very much like listening to diSEMBOWELMENT and Incantation simultaneously whilst also listening to mid-to-late period Death for technicality and malady, er, melody make that. All this while a warped Autopsy cassette plays in the background, variously loud and quiet but always making its presence known. I will be enjoying this release quite a bit!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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