Goden – Beyond Darkness Review

We’ve discussed revivals before, and tributes aplenty. Just look at Sweven’s1 Morbus Chron tribute–kind of a bit of both, and to mixed reactions.2 The list goes on: Black Sabbath and Heaven and HellImmortal and Abbath. Musicians looking to revive an old project under a new name must tread lightly, as we don’t want Morbus Chron 2.0, for example, but something that acknowledges the past while taking a fresh step forward. Today’s topic of discussion, New York’s Winter,  a relatively quiet 90’s death metal act that nevertheless influenced the development of the death/doom niche with its murky and sprawling tunes.3 Well, we may not be discussing Winter directly, we are chatting about its revival and a first album that coincides with the thirtieth(!!!) anniversary of 1990’s Into Darkness album: Goden’s Beyond Darkness. With a gaggle of excited4 metalheads lining up to scream like little girls at a 2005 Justin Bieber concert, does Goden live up to the hype? Or will it serve as a weirdly masturbatory tribute to itself?

Goden, although a tribute to Winter, is the brainchild of original guitarist Stephen Flam (AKA “Spacewinds”), original keyboardist Tony Pinnisi (AKA “The Prophet of Goden”) and vocalist Vas Kallas (AKA “NXYTA (Goddess of Night)”) from industrial/groove outfit Hanzel und Gretyl. Amping up the doom, it’s a three part slo-mo assault, built upon Flam’s murkily mountainous Winter-but-even-more-drawn-out doom riffs. Meanwhile, Kallas’ shape-shiftingly sinister Nergal-esque vocals propel the story, and Pinnisi’s frosty synth textures recall Paysage d’Hiver’s Die Hestung, weaving an impeccable darkness atop. While its structure is fundamentally simple, it’s brutally effective, resulting in an interlude-filled nineteen-track concept album with a mythological journey that would make Necros Christos jealous. While taking after the murky excellence of its predecessor, it feels like the appropriate next step thirty years later, serving up menace to a colossal degree.

Goden has time to sprawl, y’all. Much like Necros Christos’ ambitious Doom of the Occult album, Beyond Darkness’ structure deals with one or two full tracks followed by an interlude, a “Manifestation,” a whole nineteen tracks and hour-and-seventeen minutes of atmosphere. As such, while Winter’s material was death with a side of doom, Goden’s snail pace takes front and center, as instrumental opener “Glowing Red Sun” and previously released single “Twilight” flaunt. Tracks are built patiently, proportionately and hierarchically: Flam’s riffs, Kallas’ vocals, and Pinnisi’s synths. With a solid foundation, variety allows the longer tracks to shine, like the ominous and doomy “Komm Susser Tod,” “Twilight,” and “Night,” which showcase Kallas’ impressive vocal variety in her roars, shrieks, and witchy spoken word, and Flam’s nearly sludgy riffs. Meanwhile, tracks “Cosmic Blood,”5 “I Am Immortal,” and “Ego Eimie Gy” channel more slo-mo6 Crowbar to a steel-toed groovy beatdown degree, while “Dark Nebula” utilizes Gorguts or Sunless dissonance warped around its doomy riffs. Finally, closer “Winter” provides the most death metal-attuned experience, a tribute worthy of its predecessor.

While tracks “Genesis Rise” and “I Am Immortal” can drag just a tad too long, the real downside to Beyond Darkness is not found in the regular tracks but in the interludes. Frankly, while its initial iterations and development of the concept is intriguing in icy dark ambiance, its music is frustratingly monotone. Each begins with the same crystalline synth that continues for its fifty-three seconds to minute-and-seventeen-second runtime, which, save for the interesting mythology constructed within, gets stale real quick. Final ambient track “Thundering Silence” is equally frustrating in that it provides the variety that the others frankly should have had.

To be fair, the negatives comprise only fifteen minutes of Beyond Darkness’ mammoth hour-and-seventeen-minute runtime and, in spite of their consistent interspersion throughout, pale in comparison to Goden’s excellent output. Somehow balancing the ominous, brutal, and colossal, it sees Winter’s influence and offers an album that effectively succeeds it. Armed with an impressively charismatic and earthmoving vocalist, a concept that keeps it grounded and focused, and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” simplicity, it’s an impressive debut for a set of veterans who are clearly firing on all cylinders. While its interludes are a monotonous element I would rather forget, the concept is fantastic, telling of an enigmatic godlike figure, Goden, who ushers the universe into violent rebirth. As such, it’s still Winter, but Goden steps out of its shadow and into a new age.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Svart Records
Websites: Bandcamp | Facebook
Releases Worldwide: 
May 8th, 2020

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Or… Sweven?
  2. Don’t @ me.
  3. Seriously, if you don’t know them, rush forth and acquire their Into Darkness debut. – Steel
  4. And old.
  5. Kallas’ growls of “You came from nothing!” give me chills every time.
  6. Sloer-mo? Slo-moer?
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