I’m not quite sure how it happens but I always seem to find myself buried in black metal at the end of the year1. It’s not like 2015, where Kampfar’s Profan squeezed its way into my top ten at the last second, but there are some late gems from 2017. And two, in particular, involve the infamous Hoest. Last month, there was Taake’s Kong Vinter. This month, there’s the return of Norway’s sibling-driven Deathcult. With only one full-length under the bullet belts, this black metal three-piece (consisting of brothers Skagg and Thurzur, with bassist Hoest) are back with their long, overdue follow-up. But, this new record ain’t no Cult of the Dragon. The debut was a forty-minute exercise on worshiping Satan the old-fashioned way. With a plethora of household black metal names (including Svartulv, Vrangsinn, and Dirge Rep), Cult of the Dragon tore through eight songs of hate, blasphemy, and fist-pumping black metal as easily as I gulp down coffee. After ten, long years, the band is back with Cult of the Goat. But how will the Goat fare against the Dragon. A goat may not seem as menacing as a dragon, but shit gets real—real quick—on a goat farm.
And opener “Climax of the Unclean” proves that right away. It also proves the trio has plenty of tricks up their sleeves. After disrupting the cosmos with a slick bass lead, the song meddles in Darkthrone territory before emerging into a nifty guitar solo and a tremolo-plucked midsection of moody, Samael-like clean vocals. Then the build comes—taking us up through an atmosphere of melodic black metal encrusted with unsettling Gorgoroth-like background screaming. This eight-and-a-half minute piece sets the tone for the rest of Cult of the Goat. Where the band shines, though, is the album epic, “Ascension Rite.” Its eight-minute runtime delivers everything from classic black metal assaults to a ripping lead that sounds like the Munsters theme fucked by Satan himself. Then it’s off to another heavy, melodic build that cracks wide open with beautiful string accompaniment. It’s one of the longer songs on the album but all its riff, mood, and timing changes mesh like the zipper on a Ziplock bag.
But the surprises don’t end here. “Bloodstained Ritual” gets this old heart throbbing with a guitar lick straight from Mercyful Fate’s “Death Kiss” before it takes a hard left into Toxic Holocaust soundscapes—unleashing riffs and a “Hail Satan!” of the black/thrash variety. After returning to Darkthroney riffage, the song cuts sharp in the other direction. This time, traversing the bass-rumbling, throat-ravaging, guitar/drum-poundings of black ‘n’ roll. All this occurring in mere six-and-a-half minutes. Like “Bloodstained Ritual,” “The Oath” is a mixed bag of black metal tricks. It has monstrous riffs and crushing drum work that gives way to an eyebrow-raising rock interlude. This is different but it’s one of the more unique and surprising segments on the entire album. Then there’s “Laudate Hircum”—the instrumental closer that plays out like a fucked-up Christmas jingle. The xylophone rappings (that tiptoe around like a child’s boogie man) and the layered shrieks of agony make this one unsettling finale.
But the king of moans, groans, shrieks, and screams—all somewhere between agonizing and orgasmic—is the ten-minute “Devilgoat.” Unfortunately, this song proves there is a cap on how long a Deathcult song should be. Especially one that’s twice as long as it should be and lacks the diversity of pieces like “Climax of the Unclean” and “Ascension Ritual.” Though “Man Versus Beast” isn’t as weak as “Devilgoat,” it’s another piece that’s missing something. But, what it lacks the aggressiveness of a song like “Bloodstained Ritual,” it makes up for it with impressive bass work and a textured coating of orchestration.
After it’s all said and done, Cult of the Goat is far more adventurous than its predecessor. It maintains that same classic sound from the debut, but with more head-turning moments. But, with great power comes great responsibility. And, with great variety comes great length. While the debut album averaged four-minute songs, Goat averages close to seven-minute song lengths. That said, the only song that feels too long is “Devilgoat.” The others have enough (and sometimes more than enough) going on to keep them entertaining (if not downright enjoyable). In under a month, Cult of the Goat marks another solid album for Hoest and a fitting sequel to Skagg and Thurzur’s wicked Dragon.