Goathammer’s name is a paradox. On one hand, it sounds metal as fuck. Goats are easily one of the most metal animals, while the word “hammer” conveys a sense of primal, brute force. Yet at the same time, it feels kind of generic. If someone were to hold a gun to my head and force me to come up with ten metal band names in two minutes, “Goathammer” would be right near the top of the list, along with “Death Trooper” and “Satanic Thimblefucker.” As it turns out, the band’s name is a fitting representation of their music. Initially I was excited by the pre-release tracks this Canadian quartet put out, but on the whole their Ceremony of Morbid Destruction debut leaves me with mixed feelings.
It’s a shame because when done right, Goathammer‘s style of primitive blackened death metal is right up my alley. In the spirit of genre forebears (and fellow Canadians) Blasphemy, the band’s guitars buzz with barbaric force, while the drums batter with an almost cacophonous sense of chaos. Songs like “Perverted Blasphemy” and opener “Arcane Destruction Spell” sound an awful lot like Archgoat in the way they alternate fast, menacing strumming with slower, surging chords, though these Canadians typically use fewer slow sections and employ tortured rasps rather than deep grunts. Everything brims with a ritualistic yet urgent atmosphere, like a malevolent spirit whose capability of bringing physical harm is questionable but not something you’re willing to test.
Though this music is tailor-made for people who use “necro” in everyday speech and wear bullet belts to the grocery store, there are still some moments that will appeal to your average metalhead. “Invoking the Sadistic Spirits” is an early highlight with its peppy pace, wild riffs, and surprisingly melodic solo, while “Right of Conquest” features a vicious half-time thrash break that’s sure to get heads bobbing. Unfortunately, moments like these are the exception. On the whole, Goathammer bloat these tracks with generic riffs and songwriting that often fails to keep things interesting. Aforementioned “Destruction Spell” is a prime example, blasting forward on unremarkable riffing for almost the entirety of its six minute runtime before a more notable progression barely salvages the song in its final minute. A more seasoned band would either shorten the track or incorporate more rhythmic variety; here, the band seem to hope sheer barbarity is enough to keep listeners engaged.
Admittedly, Goathammer do try to maintain interest by occasionally venturing beyond their blackened death trappings, though they don’t always leave their flaws behind. While it’s still in dire need of more riffs or tempo changes, “Into the Endless Night” sounds more like early 90s black metal than anything from the war metal school, granting Ceremony‘s first half a decent change of pace. Album centerpiece “Astral Crucifixion” is even more interesting, filling its eight minute runtime with hypnotic riffs and echoing leads that wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist with Judas Iscariot or Wolves in the Throne Room. While it’s still too long, songs like these offer a welcome dose of variety. Closer “Sempiternal Holocaust” is more typical but nonetheless ends things on a high note, with a massive ricocheting riff that makes me love the album’s prominent and buzzy guitar tone all the more.
In all, I want to love Ceremony more than I do. Sonically the band nail the style they’re going for, while songs like “Crucifixion” show they understand the limitations of it. Yet at the same time, too many of these tracks are mired in uninteresting riffs and homogeneous tempos. In a way the Goathammer paradox goes further than I thought: as an album, Ceremony actually features a decent amount of variety, yet variety is exactly what some of its individual tracks need more of. Those who love the conjurations of Black Witchery or revel in Blasphemy are likely to appreciate this regardless. For the rest, Ceremony of Morbid Destruction stands as a savage yet flawed blackened death metal album with plenty of bestial force but not enough inspired songwriting to truly bring down the hammer.