Ghoulgotha-AlbumAs someone who writes music reviews, I take pride in being able to craft together a 450-550 word essay on why you should pick up an album, or why you should avoid it entirely. Keeping the reader on their tippy-toes while painting a vivid picture for your eyes and ears to digest is a great joy of mine. However, as the world aged by a year this week, I too have added another year to my existence. In doing so, I’ve realized that there comes a time where you have to dispense with the hyperbolic bullshit and just call it as it is. And it’s with this mindset that I will discuss The Deathmass Cloak, the debut album by Cali-doom/death youngsters, Ghoulgotha.

But first, I will discuss what’s good about the album. Guitarist/vocalist W. Sarantopoulos has a very deep rasp that is quite Will Rahmer-esque, for those of you who miss Mortician. Each song has at least one moment that will invoke serious headbanging (like the part from 3:12-3:44 in “Gazing into Melted Night,” or 0:43-1:40 of “Arteries Unblest”). Also, drummer C. Koryn is already displaying some incredible technical ablities early in his young career.

So what’s wrong? Practically everything else. Picture, if you will, a supergroup made up of Alf Svensson (ex-At The Gates) and Calvin Robertshaw (My Dying Bride) on guitars. You would think that would be a pretty damn cool amalgamation of The Red in the Sky is Ours/Turn Loose the Swans-style epicness, correct? Well, what if I were to tell you that they would tune their guitars roughly a quarter step off from each other, and you found out that Svensson’s leads were just him fumbling scales with gloves on? Oh, and they didn’t bother to tell the rest of the band at times what they were playing? Folks, meet The Deathmass Cloak!

Seriously, every song has a guitar “melody” that sounds like me practicing for the first year of playing, and it’s dreadful, not tuned properly, and shoved way high in the mix for no reason at all. Seriously, “Gazing into Melted Night” starts off with this, and the first time I played it, all three of my cats hissed at me. “Arteries Unblest” has an acoustic guitar/lead guitar dual-melody section where they are so off tune from one another it’s flat-out embarrassing. “Austere Urns” has that annoying guitar melody that just comes out of nowhere and is sloppily performed. In fact, for all the headbanging moments on the record, they are ruined by poor songwriting decisions and those god-awful melodies peppering the album.

Ghoulgotha-Album 2

Soundwise, the production by Damian Herring (he of Horrendous fame) is thick, chewy, and perfect for doom/death, and yes, it’s dynamic. But as someone who’s released one of the most acclaimed albums of last year, it’s baffling why, as a producer, he didn’t step in to say, “Hey, guys? You can play that memorable part a bit longer and not switch off ALL THE FUCKING TIME.”  Or, better yet, “Here, you guys wanna borrow my guitar tuner?” Because, quite frankly, in order to be technical and creative, you have to be good at your instrument. But the biggest cause for my utter hate of this record has to be the 11-minute (OMFG) closer, “Levitate Within The Curse,” which is about six minutes of horrible twin guitar melodies and mediocre blasting, followed by a minute of ambient bullshit, and returning with demo-quality sound with seemingly only half the band playing! Did Dark Descent cut the band off financially or something? Dead fucking serious, what the shit, guys?!

I’m sure people will belly-ache about how “vnkvlt” or “gay” this review is, or how I should follow the unwritten rule of worshipping bands who can’t play their instruments, as everyone and their mother will try to wax poetic, aiming to out-Pitchfork one another in vain attempts at wordsmithing and brown-nosery, and to all this I cry “bullshit.” This album physically hurt, and not in a good “metal” way. If wincing in abject agony due to poor tuning or awful songwriting decisions tickles your fancy, by all means, have at it. I’ll be listening to something way more enjoyable.


Rating: 0.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 192kbps mp3
Label: Dark Descent Records
Website: GhoulgothaFacebook
Release Dates: EU: 2015.01.27 | NA: 01.13.2015

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  • El_Cuervo

    Clearly you don’t understand this band Grymm. They’re obviously just too underground for you to understand.

    • Grymm

      GO WRITE FOR PITCHFORK, CRONIE!

      *MESHUGGAHFACE*

      • Pitchfork metal reviews literally make me scream at my monitor. So in that regard, they are effective.

        • I like Kim Kelly and Andy O’Connor though.

          • Agalloch – The Mantle. Classic. 7.

            All jokes aside, I like K^2 too.

          • Grymm

            Kim Kelly is, indeed, awesome.

          • #metalgate

          • Where they involved in that? I willfully ignored twitter on that weekend.

          • No, I’m kidding. They just take shots at Kim Kelly ’cause she likes THE GAYS and THE WOMENZ and THE BLACKS or something.

          • Ah! I see. Well, one more reason to like her.

  • This review is sadly lacking in kvlt wordsmithery

    • Grymm

      I need to get my word swagger on while juxtaposing some lofty phrases, and not be so samey.

      *pause*

      I’m so fired, aren’t I?

      • Feeblejocks

        Jorn. Jorn. Joooooooooooorn …
        Now defend Cold Lake and find the door.

    • Siege Bantayan

      Mayhaps this record sucked so bad that any kvlt wordsmithery to be had got sucked into it’s black hole of suckery?

  • Angel of Deaf

    There’s no way it’s that bad…
    .
    .
    .
    Holy Shit! It’s actually really that bad.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    There’s something deeply comical about reading this the same day I receive my Ecdysis vinyl from Damian.

    • Feast and famine, eh?

    • Kryopsis

      I still feel really bad about failing to recognize the sheer genius behind Horrendous right away and being so late to jump on the bandwagon. Now that I’ve seen the light, Ecdysis is my most-played album of 2015 (so far) I’m still not entirely sure how a 3-man band could pull it off.

      • Angel R. Suarez

        Hey dude, it takes a bit to fully appreciate. It was my most played record of 2014, still my favorite album in a loooong time.

        Loved it so much I bought the vinyl and CD… bad I don’t even have a record player (yet).

        The album that took me a bit to appreciate more is Clearing the Path to Ascend by YOB. Been listening to it non stop.

  • Excentric_1307

    I think you just need to frame the album correctly to get it: It’s clearly a humor/satirical album, in the same vein as Spinal Tap.

    … right…?

    • Angel R. Suarez

      If you watch the video, there’s a comical moment where the guitarist seems to be staring at the instrument in complete confusion.

      • Excentric_1307

        “Wait, this thing right here that my finger’s on is called a fret? No way!”

        • Angel R. Suarez

          I swear, you can see his eyes going REALLY wide. It’s like when one of my kids drops something and is amazed by the loud sound it creates on impact.

          Really, we should just wrap this poor guy in a blanket and give him a pacifier.

  • This is my new “everybody get out of my house and leave me alone” platter.

    • Angel R. Suarez

      This song made me want to punch orphans. And not in the good way.

      • Annie had it coming, being all charming, poor and needy.

        • Angel R. Suarez

          Bruce Wayne, too. I’d rupture his kidneys with this song in the background.

    • Wait… what?! No more Inquisition?

      • How dare you mention the mighty Inquisition in the same context as this…this…thing!

  • André Snyde Lopes

    The embedded song sounds like me fucking around with my guitar :/

    • Then you suck too!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        No news there.

  • I suppose credit is due for out-Hellhammering Hellhammer.

  • All I can say is that my high school band happened 15 years too soon. We would’ve been signed to Dark Descent in no time flat!

    In all seriousness, I’m not sure I’d say this is “demo-quality sound,” at least in terms of production it sounds pretty good. But the “not-tuning-our-guitars” thing is pretty effing irritating. Now I gotta hear it all the way through.

    • Grymm

      Seriously, that last song (after the ambient crap) is sheer demo. I shite you not.

    • M C

      Angry Metal Guy

      “All I can say is that my high school band happened 15 years too soon. We would’ve been signed to Dark Descent in no time flat!”

      – We will NEVER sign a rap metal band.

      • Hahaha. No, no. I think y’all would have liked it, actually. It was a mid-paced death metal band. The demo is around here somewhere, I’ll shoot it off to you. ;)

  • Jeremy González

    I don’t think the guitars are detuned. The melodies in this album sound just like any other old school death metal album, slightly dissonant and out of key; that’s part of what makes death metal, death metal.

    The whole review reads like you want this band to employ melo-death poppy melodies and music school virtuoso guitar playing, that would ruin the sound quickly. Just like with Venom, Bathory and old speed metal bands, the sloppy playing is what makes this style of metal work.

    • I grew up on all that classic old stuff and truly loved Hellhammer, but even compared to them this sounds off

      • Grymm

        I’m in that same camp.

        This isn’t endearingly sloppy. It’s just plain sloppy.

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Plus, Hellhammer had crap production that made those flaws sound normal. Ghoulgotha’s production is an HD remaster of an End Wood film.

    • It sounds to me like the guitars are supposed to be playing in unison but aren’t tuned. It could be that they’re intentionally playing half-steps, though. Still, I dunno.

      • Jeremy González

        It could be. It’s like saying that Ulcerate and Obscura-era Gorguts don’t tune their guitars because their melodies sound weird. They do it intentionally and I think this band does so too.

        • Yeah, see, Ulcerate and Gorguts sound tight as fuck. This; less so.

          • Angel R. Suarez

            Yeah, having listened to ‘Obscura’-era Gorguts more times than is clinically healthy… I don’t get what this fella is saying.

            This shit is just a mess. Obscura sounds like channeled chaos.

    • Alexandre Barata

      Don’t ever make a comparison between Bathory and this again, even on their worse days they knew how to make a song.
      This can be compared, atmosphere wise, to Thou Shalt Suffer, with all the dissonance and doomyness, but arriving 20 years later to the party. Also there are just moments, on the song above, that are completely ridicule, in a too-drunk-to-be-funny way.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    “This was no boating accident!”

    Maybe this is destined to fall into the category of some shitty movies: it’s so bad it’s “good”.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    By the way, Grymm, I appreciate the honesty, as always (great review). I feel sorry for the guys, but, as you say, someone should have stepped in to shine a light on what’s so obviously wrong.

    To be all smart-ass and high-falutin’, John Gielgud said in an interview once that he learned more about acting and the nature of theater by watching a poorly produced play. Maybe some lessons to learn here.

  • Alped

    I’m scared to play the clip. If it makes a cat hiss, what will it do to my grandma?

    • Grymm

      That Disqus profile pic makes this comment all the more hilarious.

      That’s the *exact* face I was making while listening to this.

  • Let’s see how many 0.5 reviews are there… Wow, mighty company there with Geoff Tate and H.E.A.T.

    • The first Amaranthe, right?

      • Grymm

        I’d listen to that or that In Tormentata Quiete crap over this ever again.

        • I had to go back and read the review again to know who you were talking about, talk about hysterical amnesia.

          • Grymm

            Hell, I will spin that Enbilooloogoogletranslate thingy again before listening to this anymore.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          ouch

      • Right! How could I forget?

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      A rouges gallery!
      How about an AMG piece on the worst records of the last 5 years

      • Grymm

        That sounds like a damn good idea!

  • Great engineering can’t replace solid composition. Damian is a very talented engineer though.

    • Grymm

      No disputing there (except for the second half of “Levitate Within the Curse.” What the fuck happened there?). He just should have said something in terms of songwriting. Even a simple “Guys… no” would have been effective.

      • And you think artists listen to their engineer? Man, I wish that was true.

        • Grymm

          I know… *sighs*

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    Is this an AMG site record? A 0.5 eight whole days into the new year? Awesome. This is what my friends and I getting drunk and trying to play Hooded Menace songs would sound like, I think. This was absurdly entertaining to read though, so I vote we give Grymm all of the bad music from now on so we get more of this!

    • Seconded!

      • Grymm

        Thirded!

        Wait… no…

    • Monsterth Goatom

      You said it. The worst recordings, movies, books, etc. always seem to give rise to some of the most entertaining reviews and comments.

      • Grymm

        If there was a metal equivalent to Mystery Science Theater 3000, this would be lampooned.

  • BarryLeFreak

    I mean, the untuned guitars add to the black metal dissonance right? And the out of tune scale runs are, uh, innovative?

    I give up, this reminds me too much of high school concert band practice and that is more painful and brvtal than anything else I’ve heard recently.

  • Kryopsis

    “The best ever death metal band out of Denton /
    Were a couple of guys, who’d been friends since grade school.”

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Hard to imagine after Ecdysis that the next Herring release would be such a shocker.
    Just wondering why, maybe Herring is of the Steve Albini school of thought re production. Albini will record the music, capturing a bands sound better than anyone, but pointedly he wont ‘produce’ songwriting, tutor performance or advise on instrumentation, believing the whole point of a recording is to capture the artists vision not a producers version of it.
    If thats not the case you have to wonder what he was doing with these guys, maybe he didn’t like them…

  • hubcapiv

    This sounds like a third-tier Earache band from 1992.

    When there wasn’t a whole lot of this kind of music around, and what was there was there was hard to find. So you’d listen to anything you could get your hands on because it existed.

    And since the music was still evolving, it it was hard to be sure when a record like this was self-consciously “bad” versus when it was just plain bad.

    So you listened to it anyway. And maybe told yourself it was OK.

    Alas, that was over twenty years ago. And a lot has changed since then.

    But I think they deserve an extra .01 because the guitarist is IDGAF enough to wear reading glasses in the video.

    • Angel R. Suarez

      He’s a trendsetter.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Some of my best friends wear reading glasses.

  • You guys should change your scale so that the lowest possible score is Amaranthe. If we were to do that, how many Amaranthes would this album get?

    • Feytalist

      I hate to say this, but Amaranthe is not the worst thing on this site anymore.

      • De2013

        Their average score is now a 1.0. However, should AMG staff have weighed in the fact that The Nexus had a sphere on the cover, they should had easily scored > 4.0 on average.

  • Eddy Ferreira

    You obviously aren’t Williambrooklynhipster embedded enough to understand how complex and deep this band is.

  • This album has some of the worst recorded moments since Necronomicon’s “Magic Forest” solo.

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    Meh. I’d rather listen to Hooded Menace.

  • Dave

    Of all the metal albums in all the world to get DR11, it had to be this one.

    • I think the production is extremely intentionally ’80s “lo-fi” in sound, but it sounds good, imo.

  • OzanCan

    0,5? Damn! I’ve never seen a score lower than 1 before here…
    This must suck major donkey-gorrilla hybrid hairy balls then >:/

  • Merijn Kooijman

    Ok, the performance is bad and the music isn’t nice either. I totally agree with you about that.

    However, I do think that the review itself doesn’t match the given score of 0.5. There are simply too many positive points mentioned in the review.

    Besides that, if Amaranthe-like records get a higher score than this one, then (admittedly “failing”) intentions for being creative and just playing the music a band wants to play (like Ghoulgotha probably), result in a lower score than being intentionally uncreative and plain (like Amaranthe). That’s not a bad thing per se, but it might be something to reflect on.

    Also, this album can be a motivator for other starting bands, which seems good as well.. “Well.. at least our music is better than Ghoulgotha.” :-)

    • Well, I didn’t score this one, but I actually think Amaranthe is better than this in terms of its complete package.

    • Grymm

      Amaranthe sucks, yes.

      Amaranthe didn’t *hurt* though. ;)

  • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

    All I took away from this review is that you have a lot of cats.

  • Norfair Legend

    …But…That album cover is actually completely awesome and had me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside thinking we just found the modern day Left Hand Path. I couldn’t wait to dig into the meat of the review and play the accompanying track…

    Bah

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Damn them! They found my lost tapes from 4th of July weekend in ’97. It was bar closing time, i drank a plethora of Jagermeister, and injested an 8 ball.

  • Wilhelm

    To be honest, I’ve heard worse – It sounds like they are going for that old school My Dying Bride/Winter sound and really, if the song didn’t keep jarring around, it would not be so bad. But they really need to hone in on their songwriting skills, tune their guitars and remember that not everyone is cut out to be Pan.Thy.Monium.

    • I miss Winter.

      • Grymm

        Winter were the shit, indeed!

  • Wayne

    I’m the guitarist/vocalist of the band. I also wrote all the music. I find your review hilarious and I really don’t care that you hated it that much. I just wanted to clear a few things up:

    1. The album was recorded with one guitar that was in perfect tune and intonation. The “out of tune” sound you are hearing is created by playing the lead 4 frets off from the rhythm instead of the standard 5. Just because it doesn’t sound exactly like everything else with “happy melodies” doesn’t mean it’s out of tune. It’s intentional.

    2. Saying we switch riffs all the time is the opposite of what everyone else says. There’s only an average of seven riffs per song (with a lead track playing something different most of the time), so over the course of 50 minutes, you get less riffs than two Dark Angel songs.

    3. The end of the last song is a cover. Have you never heard Mythic before? Don’t you remember their production? We had Damian mimic that as close as he could. I wouldn’t care if you said it was a horrible Mythic cover, but to not know a pretty legendary DM song and say things like “half the band playing” and “the label cut off funding” is wrong and misleading.

    4. I’m not a youngster. I’m 38.

    5. This one isn’t related to the review, but I thought I’d let you know we are recording the next album in February and I promise you will have PLENTY more to bitch about :-)

    • Wayne

      Oh, and: 6. I don’t sound like Will Rahmer. He sings quite a bit lower than I do. I’m more in the midrange area like Cancer/Morgoth/old Paradise Lost, etc.

    • Thanks for having a sense of humor and more importantly, thanks for your input on the recording/performing. Cheers!

      • Wayne

        haha No problem. I know it’s not for everyone and that is fine. It’s one of those “love it or hate it” albums that doesn’t have many people in the middle. Let us know when the next one is reviewed. I can’t wait :-D

    • Grymm

      Thank you for the corrections, Wayne, and taking this with a sense of humor. Horns to you!

      • Wayne

        Sure thing! Thanks for giving me a good laugh for the day. This is probably the second worst review we’ve gotten so far hah

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      I’ve yet to hear anything outside of the video, but point 3 sounds like a really cool easter egg. I always enjoy those.

      • Wayne

        Yeah sort of. I figured people would know Mythic, but I guess not.

    • Our Fortress Is Burning

      3. If it’s a Gravewürm cover, that’s true. Their production is about as lo-fi as it gets.

      4. It’s true. Even wears thick reading glasses on stage. ;)

    • M C

      I gotta be honest here with you guys. No one gave any money to Wayne/Ghoulgotha. He was kept inside a small cage for days during the recording. It’s all Damian’s fault too because he didn’t say anything to me to let him out. He subsisted only on moldy artisan bread and a few stray M and M’s that were lying just outside the cage.

      DAMIAN! You bastard!

  • De2013

    Is that Castle Grayskull on the cover?

    • Grymm

      I DO see Prince Adam in there somewhere…

  • Our Fortress Is Burning

    PopMatters gave a pretty harsh review of this album too, 4/10. I’ve seen other reviews that were 8/10 though. I guess it’s a matter of taste. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.

  • Kyle Smith

    If you can’t tell the difference between an out of tune guitar and a dissonant harmony (especially if it’s 4 frets up a.k.a. major third interval) you might want to do some serious homework before reviewing another album like this. I don’t mean to be harsh and i think most opinions on music are completely valid from an objective standpoint… but you have a slightly larger audience than the average blogger and I think you need to step up your game a little bit. To be fair, it sounds like the guitarist might have bent the strings slightly during some of the harmony parts. However, it sounds pretty cool to me and I’m not just saying that because I think “you just don’t get it”or whatever. I’ve heard MUCH worse recordings as far as tuning and production are concerned.
    Again, i don’t mean to be harsh. I check this site frequently and I will continue to do so. I suppose that comment of being out of tune and the subsequent suggestions of people only liking this band because of some desire to appear “tr00” and “kvlt” just set me off. If you made it through this whole comment, thanks for your time. Please understand that my intention is not to simply talk shit. Much metal hailz or whatever. Thanks again, peace.

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      Nah, it’s out of tune (e.g. 20 seconds into the embedded video).

  • This thing seems pretty mediocre maybe it really sucks but it’s obvious you don’t know shit about death metal and music in general.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    I guess they were going for bathory-esque death metal, there are quite a few nags with this album…..

  • KingKuranes

    I don’t know, I kinda like it.

  • chitownproud85

    Ive only listened to the one song linked on this site, but during that 4 1/2 or so minutes, the “creed shreds” videos did come to mind a few times. Always interesting to see feedback come from the actual band members. Seems like a cool guy. I’m going to check out the rest of this album for curiosities sake. Bizarre, if nothing else.

  • LordEggShan

    Just a terrible and ridiculous review. This site really has no business reviewing anything of remote value, be it Death, Black, or Black Death. I mean thematerial with real soul and darkness. Just stick to the prog metal and all that faggy shit boys. Metal poofers.

    • We don’t do the insulting troll shtick on this blog. You’re welcome to debate reviews intelligently, but if you keep this up, you get the troll hammer.

      • LordEggShan

        Is that right? Give me your best shot Douche Metal guy. Your tastes suck massive dick and you really should choke on a massive large cock you despicable cunt. The worst kind of metal boy. Die

  • This review makes me really angry. I dont care if its old or not, Grymm. This went “whoosh” right over your head. They aren’t bad at their instruments, they are great at them. This is straight up Incantation worship done right. Likely will see my top 10. Holy crap you should revise this review, 0.5 pathetic??? I think you missed this for what it is entirely.