Joke bands have never really been my thing. While I love groups like Cannabis Corpse and find their puns chuckle-worthy, it’s the riffs, not the mildly amusing weed references, that keep me coming back. That said, when an album called Goatgrind by Germany’s Milking the Goatmachine showed up in the AngryMetal promo list, I made a special exception. Why? Because fucking goats [AMG policy does not support that. – Steel Druhm]. For whatever reason – be it their physical similarities to Satan and Baphomet, or their occult affiliations – they’re easily one of the most common animals in metal artwork, but beyond that, I’ve always felt a special kinship to these horned creatures. Many evenings have I lain awake, dreaming of a spritely young billy with raised furry eyebrows and an expression of both perpetual surprise and cutesy diffidence on its face, complete with a fuzzy upturned tail and little underdeveloped hooves, begging to be snuggled [Still no. – Steel]. Even in school, I once MS Painted an album cover for a fictional release called Impending Goatstorm Apocalypse, featuring a Thor-sized goatbeast sodomizing a naked man with a lightning bolt. Typical childhood stuff, right? Alright, enough! Let’s talk Goatgrind!
Admittedly, this is the first Milking the Goatmachine album I’ve heard, though the band has squeezed out five pun-laden full-lengths since forming in 2008. As on previous records, Goatgrind shows Milking playing a sort of hardcore-influenced deathgrind that owes heavily to Misery Index, Jungle Rot, and, at times, Dying Fetus. Opener “Goatgrind” immediately inundates listeners with nearly everything they can expect in the upcoming 43 minutes: menacingly quick downtuned riffs, grooves so stupidly simple they sometimes border on deathcore breakdowns, and choruses so blunt you can’t help but crack a smile (“This is fucking Goatgrind!”). Expect 3-4 riffs per song, no solos or technical machismo, and zero complexity or innovation.
…but honestly, that’s not entirely a negative here. Like Cannabis Corpse, Milking understand that humor should never take precedence over music quality, and, despite the simplicity, offer a level of variety and riffing caliber significantly higher than one might expect. After the grindy opening duo, early highlights “Blow Your Sneakers” and “Fear the Goathammer” gallop along with near death-thrash riffing, while “Mrs. Goatfire (Nanny of the Damned),” in addition to its genuinely funny theme and awesome growl-along refrain, cruises with a surprisingly measured and headbob-worthy buildup that augments the resulting climax. At times, things become so extreme one wonders if the band is actually a parody of the genre, as when the vocalist forgoes any attempt at annunciation and blurts out Disfiguring the Goddess-style gurgles through over-the-top breakdowns in “Farm of the Mutilated” and the PSA-inspired “U.H.T. Milk is Murder.” Stupid? Yes. Amusing? Even more so.
That’s not to say there aren’t missteps: second-half songs like “Shadows and Crust” lean way too heavily on the band’s groovier elements, making Goatgrind’s final third a bit of a down-tempo drag, and cuts like “#Idiot” feel like one half-decent idea stretched for 90 seconds too long. The drumming, while serviceable, is pretty stock for the genre – but the real issue, as with any joke band, is that the music either needs to be totally hilarious or mind-blowingly incredible for there to be much replay value. Sadly, Goatgrind is neither. The unintelligible growls, while throaty and potent, often prevent the no-doubt humorous lyrics from being heard, and the riffs, while good (even great at times) begin to fizzle into borderline jumpdafuckup grooviness near the end, redeemed only slightly by the closing cover of Manowar’s “Wheels of Fire.”
Fortunately, the production is modern and crisp, with a trebly guitar tone and a dynamic range just big enough to let the Goatmachine frolic. While 43 minutes is a bit long for the style, it’s never a fatiguing listen, and fans of modern deathgrind who don’t mind a humorous twist will likely find this a – dare I say it, udderly good time. I’ll certainly be suckling for a while, because while it ain’t the tastiest around, you could do far worse than the milk this Goatmachine has to offer.