No stranger to a dirty thrash riff…Chris Cleo checks out the debut EP by Goat Sanctuary, here’s what he thinks…
Newcomers to the US thrash scene Goat Sanctuary debut with an 11 and a half minute 5 track EP with the sole aim of removing your head from your body. Like most debut EPs, ‘Chthonic’ embodies the most raw, most easily identifiable elements of the Goat Sanctuary signature sound, where despite only newly unleashed upon the metal world, the crunchy tremolo picked riffs and hauling D-beats make for an immediate representation of this style. While there are many bands that rely solely on this simplified hardcore riffing style, Goat Sanctuary prove to stand a level above other members of the pack by adding some different elements, and flat out annihilating the competition in a matchup of certain features…
Firstly, the attention to melody and its incorporation amongst the hardcore riff is what really separates Goat Sanctuary from the rest of the herd. Hearing actual guitar melodies accompanying extreme vocals and a raw, dirty production is a rarity, where the first two tracks ‘Cthulhu’ and ‘Hail to the Goat’ really present these melodies in a way that creates an eerie atmosphere. The focus on diminished intervals show the proficiency of song and riff writing, where the second of these two songs furthers this use of melody in the solo over the crushing breakdown. Being the only solo on this EP makes ‘Hail to the Goat’ a standout track, alongside it’s showcase of a Machine Head like half-melodic half-raspy vocal in the verses.
Secondly, the vocal performance and production are absolutely the most notable elements of this release. The insanely powerful raspy growl is perfectly executed, pushing the brutality level through the roof. Balancing a massive-sounding roar with clear pronounciation of lyrics that makes the chorus lines easily repeatable is definitely something that would contribute massively to live shows. The production also matches this raw intensity, presenting crunchy mid-centric guitars on a background of booming un-fucked-with drums (a welcome break from 25+ years of clicky kick drums) and a thick distorted bass that just makes the whole mix sound massive. The intro to ‘Shark Teeth’ perfectly shows off these two highlights, as the bass in the intro section builds to a mouth-wateringly heavy breakdown of a chorus. All tracks are comprised of a memorable structure, be it based on the riff, vocal line or tempo, and all feature a near-even mix of D-beat sections and old-school death metal breakdowns. Where all tracks have somewhat of a unique flavour, penultimate track ‘Drain the Blood’ is definitely my favourite simply because it’s the fastest and climaxes to the heaviest breakdown on the record.
While the simple riffs and drum patterns allow for the departure from the more modern production, which is definitely a preference for many listeners, the trade-off is definitely noticeable. The riffing style does seemingly pushing the boundaries of how simple riffs can get, where pedalling on one note or chord for however long doesn’t add the variation that comes with a more intricate rhythm pattern or meander across a scale. This would be a huge problem, but luckily the short running time for each song saves this simplicity from becoming too much of a problem. Yes, not too much is being sacrificed by having over-simplified riffs on a 10 minute EP, but something may need to be built upon musically to make a full length effort that pays more attention to replay value.
Overall Chthonic is a bitesize serving of the Goat Sanctuary sound, nothing less, but also nothing too much more. Take a solid 10 minutes and sink your teeth into grimy, unpolished noise with a whipcrack of a snare pounding D-beats and breakdowns exclusively. Make no mistake however, this is far from a complete work, which is the case with most EPs, and is just the bait that’ll hook you and keep you waiting for whatever Goat Sanctuary have coming up next. There are definitely other bands you’ll want to go to for more in terms of a riffing approach, but this release will definitely supply a healthy dose towards the daily aggression levels necessary for any thrasher to function properly.
Goat Sanctuary – Chthonic is out today (Friday the 4th June) via BANDCAMP