It’s hard1 to take a group named Goatpenis seriously. At first glance, one assumes this is probably a garage band who heard of Goatwhore and Goat Semen, decided they had no fucks to give, and chose to just call themselves “Goatpenis” and be done with it. Yet in actuality this Brazilian trio formed before either of those acts, beginning in 1988 as Suppurated Fetus before adopting their current moniker in 1991. After discovering them one day in the furthest reaches of Spotify, I originally expected this blackened-death crew to sound like Bestial Warlust or Blasphemy — that is, a noisy hellscape good primarily for mindless aggression and getting coworkers to never ask for a car ride again. And though 2004 debut Inhumanization somewhat fit this mold by essentially sounding like Revenge with more tremolos, further exploration of Goatpenis’s discography revealed a band that was notably riffier and more immense than expected.
Enter Anesthetic Vapor. On their sixth full-length and first with new drummer Gilson Lange, Goatpenis have crafted what’s likely the most accessible “war metal” album I’ve ever heard. In fact, this puppy is downright melodic: most of the riffs consist of tuneful, windswept tremolos that sound more like Amon Amarth’s debut than anything Anal Vomit ever produced. Like God Dethroned, this melody is then fired via belt-fed weapon onto a battlefield of rattling blastbeats, marching buildups, and guttural rasps that sound like a drill sergeant from hell.
Intro “Tambours Géants” sets the stage with a beefy voice repeating the phrase “nuclear devastation” over radio chatter samples, before introducing a faint trumpet playing the National Anthem and a scream that sounds like a basement demon. It’s a hellishly effective mood setter for proper opener “Anesthetic Vapors,” which immediately breaks in with marching drumbeats and wailing tremolos that sound like air sirens played through a bass amp. After moving through more typical black metal progressions and a set of colossal chords, Goatpenis make their true strength clear: simply put, this band sounds absolutely fucking huge. The sense of magnitude conveyed by both the riffing and the scorching yet clear production is something I can only liken to Ulcerate despite how different the two groups are.
As Vapor continues, it’s clear guitarist ‘Virrugus Apocalli’ is the one who really deserves the kudos (and all the other snacks in the cupboard). As mentioned there’s plenty of delicious melodic tremolos: check the almost melancholic verse guitars of “Humanatomy Grinder Chatter Studies” or the glorious streaming conclusion of “Front Toward Enemy,” which again sound pulled straight from Amon Amarth’s Golden Hall. But Apocalli is far from a one-trick pony. The blistering and frantic chords of “Machiavelli Reputation – Chapter XVII” stand out by recalling the thrashy blackened death of Infernal War, while death metal rager “Krieg Und Frieden” pulls a trick from Behemoth’s Thelema.6 by barreling ahead on brutal low-register notes.
I could go on about the memorable moments — the sliding bass notes of “Oppressive Feric Noise,” the victorious stomp of closer “Pleasant Atrocities March,” or the massive chug break of “Hallucinatory Sirens,” which evokes the explosive force of sadly defunct Italian black-death act Blasphemophagher. Unfortunately, Vapor isn’t a total win. Despite how strong the riffs of tracks like “Carnivorous Ability” are, the song’s three-minute runtime leaves it feeling sorely underdeveloped. Part of the problem is that several of these tracks lean a bit too heavily on their main riffs, refusing to develop or deviate far from their base ideas. It also doesn’t help that the riffing style begins to feel a bit one-dimensional by Vapor’s midpoint, though that’s certainly redeemed by a strong final third.
Yet ultimately these complaints feel like quibbles. In all Goatpenis have offered the type of blackened death album I wasn’t even sure existed: one that offers a huge sense of scope, devilishly melodic riffs, plenty of memorable moments, and all the apocalyptic aggression one expects from war metal. The 37-minute runtime doesn’t hurt, nor does the rhythmic diversity and violent fury of Lange’s drumming. Vapor sits alongside Necroblood and Weregoat as some of the best blackened-death of 2017, proving that a group can still sound battle-hardened while laying their foundation in sweet, sweet melody. At the end of the day, Goatpenis are simply a far better band than a band named Goatpenis has any right to be.2