Goatpsalm - DownstreamIt’s rare that I find music I can appreciate on a superficial, musical and a cerebral level. Too much of the former and it likely won’t stick with me in the long term; too much of the latter and the smell of shit wards me off as groups examine how far they can reach up their rectum. It’s great to hear that ideal fusion of the two, particularly when it comes out of left field – in this case, Russia1. Downstream by Goatpsalm definitely scratches that itch, resonating with a similar impact to Empyrium and Kauan without sounding remotely like either. Its genre is indescribable in a few words but creativity, satisfaction and evil lie at its heart.

Downstream is an amorphous beast. Slivers of different genres leak themselves into the heady concoction of oppressive darkness and East Asian folk which represent the largest fragments. They categorize themselves as ‘dark ambient’ which is, I suppose, a reasonable catch-all for their sound but don’t mistake them for an ambient band who happen to use synths in minor key. Their sound-scape is fleshed out with natural samples, whether that be gentle trickling of water, birdsong, subtle East Asian instrumentation, throat singing or the general aura of darkness over a sparse vista. It is unquestionably heavy on the synths too, but they’ve a more nuanced bed on which they continually construct and de-construct throughout.

Said structures most often take the form of slow, funereal doom. The prevailing strength of the atmosphere, synths and massive tone lands this somewhere near to Monolithe during the doom. Though the largest aspect which can be formally described as metal, the doom never overstays its welcome or ever dips below excellent. It’s deployed as a cathartic release after gradual builds and creeping ambiance and isn’t permitted to devolve into droning filler. Passages where Downstream gets loud without using doom are few but particular mention has to go to “Of Bone and Sinew.” Its blackened opening has a dark beauty and the remainder deftly transitions between this and slower doom extracts.

Goatpsalm 2016The greatest success here is how the music is so well arranged. There is a high degree of self-control exercised even though a few passages take too long to reach their destinations. What I mean is that Goatpsalm is careful and frugal as they progress, reserving climaxes for opportune moments and haunting with their ethereal work as much as they crush with their heavy. The builds ramp up tension and hunt for the next gear change, without mindlessly meandering. The effectiveness of their aural illusion is aided by the stellar production. It ticks the baseline boxes which I want ticked – dynamic, good mix and appropriate tones – but it’s the elusive mystical quality and conveyance of the unknown which contributes to much of my appreciation for Downstream.

I’m left hunting for negatives rather than observing any that obviously present themselves, but as previously noted, a few quieter sections could use pruning to be at their most engaging. Indeed, the mix could be bassier where metal is utilized to afford just a little more heft to their sound. This also isn’t for those who demand immediacy as Goatpsalm refuse to rush or offer anything resembling a hook.

In all, I bequeath unto Downstream the hallowed ‘Great’ rating for its initiative and willingness to be creative. It’s a fascinating album and I’ve lost myself in its precise doom and folky mysticism. Dark ambient has never been so appealing.

Rating: Great
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Aesthetic Death Records
Websites: goatpsalm.bandcamp.com | www.facebook.com/goatpsalm
Releases Worldwide: February 29th, 2016

Show 1 footnote

  1. and potentially Ukraine, though my research is inconclusive.
Tagged with →  
  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    What? No unicorn?

    • Martin Knap

      I would photoshop a unicorn head on that photo instead of the pidgin.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Be careful what you wish for.

        • Martin Knap

          see it’s there already :-)

    • The Stormin Mormon

      This demands a unicorn psalm

      • Blueberry Balls

        Angry Metal Unicorn strikes again.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          The unicorn should go on the guy’s picture!

          • Blueberry Balls


          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            That’s what I was talking about!

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Wearing a goat skull mask in your band photo is a pass for me. No Unicorn shaming required here.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I know AMG has a thing about the overuse of soundscapes, but, damn I’m a sucker for nature sounds in metal. They can take all the time they want: I’m in no hurry. For this relief much thanks.

  • Reese Burns

    This is awesome, thanks Cuevro! I haven’t really been taken by too much this year, but this is really good!

  • Pimpolho

    This is some fantastic shit, thank you!

  • AngryMetalBird

    Awesome! Can I buy this as a download somewhere? They are on bandcamp but it looks like nothing is on sale there

    • El_Cuervo

      I’m not sure, maybe ask the band

      • AngryMetalBird

        I did and it’s only on CD. I ordered it and they asked me how I heard about them so I pointed them to your review…

        • Name’s Dalton

          This site is responsible for so so many of my music purchases since I began reading it. And I’m OK with that.

  • Diego Molero

    If I get paid for every album that El Cuervo gives a good score and I like, I wont be millionaire, but I sure as hell would have some good cash. We don’t seem to disagre!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Nice review made me want to pick it up on spec so I went to the linked band camp page and … left with only a question
    Why have a band camp page that neither streams your album or allows the purchase of it?

    • Lucas Lex DeJong

      I noticed that too. Nor could I find it on the Aesthetic Death page.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Found a stream through Invisible Oranges: http://www.invisibleoranges [DOT COM]/goatpsalm-downstream-album-premiere/

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Cool I will head over there now.
        I was quite happy to send a few bucks to the band though.
        It’s hard enough to be a musician as it is with out actively preventing the purchase of your music!

        • Monsterth Goatom

          The bandcamp page doesn’t look fully fleshed out. Hopefully a digital download is in the works.

    • tomasjacobi
  • Lucas Lex DeJong

    Any word on where to get this? Bandcamp doesn’t seem available to stream or buy.

    • AngryMetalBird

      You can order it on CD here http://www.aestheticdeath.com . I think that’s pretty much it. price is ok though.

      • I fucking love your name and avatar. Mad props.

        • AngryMetalBird

          thanks! I love this site, I found more great music here in two months than in the last five years before that

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Hmm. The AD site mentions the album, but I don’t actually see it on their Shop page.

        • tomasjacobi

          I had the same problem initially. You have to go to the “releases” page to find it :-)

          • Monsterth Goatom


    • AngryMetalBird

      you can buy it on bandcamp now

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Your reviews are consistently enjoyable, and I love your finds too. Definitely gonna be jamming this one!

  • Jeff Kent

    The embedded track reminds me of Cult Of Luna.

  • Eryops

    Are there any other bands on the Aesthetic Death label that anyone can recommend? Would be nice to pad an order and save on shipping to the US.