King Goat hails from the mid-sized English city Brighton, the embodied karmic inverse of the Great Storm of 1703. Conduit, the band’s debut album, is a self-released album that they call “progressive doom metal.” The record consists of 5 long songs, is 42 minutes long and marks the band’s first release since two EPs from 2013. Most readers here are aware that I am not an epic consumer of doom metal, but Conduit spoke to me immediately. This band of Britons have crafted an album which successfully blends dark atmosphere, soaring vocals, ponderous builds, and an epic feel that compels a listener forward.
“The Flight of the Deviants” kicks Conduit off with a long intro and a bass-driven riff courtesy of the Blue Öyster Cult (+ Satan). Just when I’d written “Ghostcore” in the genre field on our promo sheet, however, vocalist Anthony “Trim” Trimming hit the chorus. Immediately differentiating King Goat‘s sound, Trim’s upper range and vocal tone is like a baritone version of Messiah Marcolin. I promptly wrote “Candlemasscore” in the genre field instead, and claimed the album to review. While King Goat obviously has differentiated themselves mightily from the Swedish kings of doom metal, the comparison is apt. Trim is a dominant force on Conduit, delivering a vocal performance that is dynamic and impressive. His approach is varied; growling, whispering, and raspy cleans define the different tracks. But while “Feral King” would stand alone because of a groovy intro, it wouldn’t be as good without the power of Trim’s performance. “Revenants” delivers awesome riffs, but it’s the deft touch with which Trim delivers the melodies—reminiscent of A Perfect Circle—that makes it stand out. Like so many of the best vocal performances, the melodies on Conduit are catchy, but never linear. Add in throat singing (whut!?) and Trim’s dexterous navigation of the band’s dynamic songwriting, and his performance is a vocal tour de force.
It helps a singer to have a lot to work with, however. While the music on Conduit isn’t “progressive” in my opinion, it is expansive. The songs are epic. This does not mean that they are just long. Rather, the songs are woven from a tapestry of inspirations to be epic and dynamic. Like waves, “Sanguine Path” rises and falls heavily; white space between phrases like the calm before a storm. While songs can sometimes feel a bit over-leveraged—”Flight of the Deviants” maybe pushes a bit long, for example—King Goat is deft at avoiding the lulls that plague too many doom bands. Rather than songs which are long for the sake of being long, Conduit feels expressively coherent and artistically fresh. There’s a lot of Candlemass here, but there’s Primordial, too, and like Oceans of Slumber there’s something that reminds me of the best extreme metal from the ’90s. This peaks on the title track “Conduit,” which is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. The guitars lay the bed for a brilliant, occidental melody before giving way to one of the album’s heaviest moments. But the track peaks on the practically neo-classical choral section that proceeds the outro.
Conduit has a slightly muddy quality that fits the music perfectly. The sound is bass heavy, too, with bassist Reza G. and drummer Jon Wingrove getting a lot of audio real estate. Reza’s sound is some of my favorite kind of bass tone, reminding me of Mendez’s sound from Blackwater Park, while Wingrove’s drums sound trashy and live. The guitar work from Petros Sklias and Joe Parson is minimalist, but fitting. The guitars on Conduit are reminiscent of black metal bands that use the wall of sound—like Primordial or Rotting Christ—rather than power chords. This differentiates slow, and sometimes simplistic, guitar work in its fullness and lush textures. The pair use unique chord constructions and Petros even drops well-placed solos.
Conduit is a slow burner that I liked from the start, but I have grown to love it. The blend of good ideas and great performances makes for an album that is surprisingly addictive. The record flows, and even when songs strain a little bit at the edges of “too long,” it’s forgivable, because the whole is greater than the parts. King Goat may hearken back to the operatic drama of Candlemass, but Conduit is an idiosyncratic take on that sound and a conduit to another world.