When I really think back, the town I lived in was once a hotbed of great underground music. Bands like Riphouse, Malicious Onslaught, Mutilation, Out Of Darkness, Killpower, At All Cost and more were active, playing shows and releasing demos. One that really stands out is Sectorian‘s Tears No More. My best friend at the time had a mouth so big, you could park a Lincoln in it. People just expected him to talk smack. When this demo made its way around the school, people were laughing out loud long before there was an LOL. My friend (we will call him Nick P. No, wait that is too obvious – N. Perez) upon hearing it said, “Yeah, that’s not so good,” and naturally because everyone wanted Nick to get his ass kicked, they ran to Joe Sibley, the not-so-mastermind behind Sectorian and told him Nick was talking all kinds of trash. Joe approached Nick in the hallway of our high school and said, “I hear you think my demo sucks, well I think YOU suck,” and pushed him. Nick grabbed Joe, threw him to the ground and held him down yelling, “I am not fighting him! I am not fighting him! I am just holding him down!” for any and all authority figures in earshot.
Well, years later, guess what? We still listen to Sectorian. It’s sloppy like a soup sandwich and while part of it is how funny it is because it’s so bad, it’s also genuinely ugly, and shouldn’t death metal be ugly? In the case of Sectorian, the ugliness was because they had no fucking idea what they were doing and could barely play. Ghoulgotha can, and they make their death metal intentionally unsettling and uber-ugly to the point where even seasoned crusty bastards like my brothers in arms, Grymm and Dr. Fisting, couldn’t wrap their iron-laden arms around their debut, The Deathmass Cloak. I started to listen to it out of morbid curiosity and found that it sank into my brain like a cancerous strain to the point that it wound up in my year end top ten list.
And now, their sophomore effort, To Starve The Cross has landed like a napalm bomb. Much like the debut, and much with the intent to fuck your ass up, the guitarists continue to play leads and melodies 4 frets off from the rhythm instead of the standard 5 just so it sounds wrong to the average ear and, considering these days the average ear has a bar and a few rings and studs in it, that ear deserves the torture as does the rest of this fucked up world. Ugly music for ugly times. This splatter platter reminds me of Incantation‘s greatest and most underappreciated album Mortal Throne of Nazarene. Like The Rolling Stones, so ugly, it’s appealing. Ghoulgotha is pushing the envelope more than Sloth at a Hurricane Down Under appearance. The guitar lick in opening track “Village of Flickering Torches” is sing songy, the harmony is just all wrong, and the end sounds like Nelson Muntz’s laugh. It’s all that is wrong while being just so right. “Pangaea Reforms” takes the insane formula established on their debut to a new level of ridiculous, wallowing in a drudgy swamp of sludge that could have killed Artax in the Swamp of Sadness twice as fast and with much less empathy.
The vocals take Craig Pillard’s vocal style and smashes it in the face with Diamanda Galas. Equal parts beauty and the grimiest of the worst filth, then smatter gore and crap and nasty all over the place. Ghoulgotha appeal to me more than they do to most because I was there when critics reviewed Blasphemy‘s Fallen Angel of Doom and though it was a heaping pile of shit. Label heads told me Nuclear Death were “little more than a noise band.” Now there is a band taking noise and dissonance and not doing what Gorguts does, refusing to craft them into something of beauty, instead leaving it stark naked and ugly to torture the listener. How’s the production? Ain’t the question. It’s clear enough to hear all the mindfuckerry going on and thick enough to rattle the brain stem. This is music to shit yourself by, wallow in the smell, and if like Miss Jackson, you’re nasty, come back for more.
With songs this intentionally hard on the ears, To Starve The Cross is a daunting listen… a lot to take in all at once. Ghoulgotha are a band that might be better sticking to EPs considering their mission is to make your skin crawl. They succeed with flying colors in doing so. If you don’t get it, drive on. If you do, raise the horns and the other sick fucks will be by your side to shiver and embrace all of the wrong and try to make it right.