One of the best aspects of writing for Angry Metal Guy Inc. Ltd. Turbo Hyper-Fighting Edition, besides the scenic view of the cemetery right outside the window of my broom closet/office, is the chance to review something challenging and different. Texas one-man black metal act Goatcraft definitely fits the bill as both. Yes, we review a crap-ton of one-man (or woman) black metal here, but I don’t recall us ever reviewing an album that’s strictly piano. There truly is a first time for everything, and with that, I’ve been given Yersinia Pestis1, the moody third full-length by pianist and sole-proprietor, Lonegoat.
Baptized by Lonegoat himself as “necroclassical music” in the band’s lofty biography page, Goatcraft take the dark aura and atmospheric heart of black metal, and strip them down to just the bones, retaining the diseased spirit while eschewing trappings such as raspy vocals, blast beats, and guitars. The effect is actually impressive, as lead-off track “Beyond Nothingness,” exemplifies. Even without lyrics or tremolo guitars, the song does a damn good job of evoking an ambiance of dread and terror, all while showcasing Lonegoat as a phenomenal pianist and songwriter, utilizing full chords and melodic trills when the song commands them. It’s a very dramatic, tense piece, and at only three-and-a-half minutes, it sets up the rest of the album perfectly.
Another moldy feather in Yersinia Pestis‘s diseased chapeau is just how rich and full it sounds. Lonegoat’s heavy plunking and baroque fills, especially on the amazing title track, adds to the atmosphere. No nuance is overlooked, and when there’s added instrumentation, such as the simulated flute on “Bodies Piled,” it adds instead of detracts. But it’s when Lonegoat concentrates on using just his playing skills to incite drama, such as the pleasant-yet-dreary “Weeping Buboes,” where Yersinia Pestis truly shines like a rancid beacon in the fog.
For as impressed as I am with Yersinia Pestis, it’s not without some issues. As you can probably guess, it’s not easy to craft a dark atmosphere using only piano and keyboards, and maintaining that aura over the course of a 38-minute album can be downright difficult. Sadly, Yersinia Pestis proves that theory correct, as there’s very little variance in terms of tempo or breathing space within songs, causing the album to feel longer than the actual run-time. Also, this album is the epitome of the term “mood music,” as your mileage will vary greatly depending on what mood you’re in as you’re listening. One minute, you’re entrenched in the mire, walking among the diseased dead, and another minute, you could picture this music as the soundtrack of a character select screen of a Gothic-themed video game.
But all-in-all, I found Yersinia Pestis to be an interesting and oftentimes enjoyable listen. With some variation, I can see Goatcraft toppling Xytras‘s re-imagining of Samael‘s Passage as my go-to for neo-classical music. As it is, I’m impressed that someone is pushing the envelope of what’s considered metal, and doing so on their terms. That gets my respect, and I’ll keep an eye out on further releases, as well as Goatcraft‘s prior albums.