Ghoulgotha
The Deathmass Cloak

So, this old-school/retro/classic death metal movement has been going on for over a decade now. It’s so ubiquitous that I’m not sure if we can really call it a thing anymore; It’s just what death metal is now. The principle of it makes me happy, but the practice has left me feeling a little unfulfilled as I keep waiting for someone to find inspiration from some of the more unconventional acts from the early ‘90s creative explosion like Afflicted, Gorement, or Edge of Sanity. Mandatory showed some promise in this regard on Adrift Beyond back in 2010 and the past three years saw the trifecta of evolutionary releases from Necrovation, Tribulation, and Morbus Chron, but while all great in their own regard, none of them went far enough or in the direction I’d been hoping for. But now, as if I had willed them into existence myself, Ghoulgotha is here to deliver the offbeat death metal that I (and hopefully some of you) have been craving.

The band — comprised of Wayne Sarantopoulos (aka Elektrokutioner) of Father Befouled, Encoffination, Decrepitaph, and a slew of other bands along with members of Ascended Dead, Weightlessness, and VoidCeremony — first impressed me in late 2012 with their two-song demo, No Peace to Rest In, especially with the second track, “Divine Transcendence,” which resembled a Finnish death metal take on early Cathedral. A partnership with Dark Descent Records for a full-length was soon announced, but didn’t materialize until now. In the meantime they released an EP, Prophetic Oration of Self and a split with Into Darkness that built my anticipation even further. They must’ve been waiting to get this debut just right because that’s exactly what they’ve done.

That early Cathedral sound has expanded and gotten weirder here. Psychedelic riffs and mournfully unbalanced melodies throughout the entire album recall those Brits at their most heavy, dismal, and bold on the early EPs, Soul Sacrifice and Cosmic Requiem. “Prophetic Oration of Self” plays almost like a death/doom edit of the epic “Voyage of the Homeless Sapien.” That alone is amazing, but there are even more wonders to behold. For all of the doom influence that’s heard here, there’s just as much quirky, progressive death metal. Almost every track is punctuated by crazy time changes, stuttering tempos, and bizarre, backward riffs. Somber plodding rubs elbows with the trippy riffs and rhythms of Afflicted’s Prodigal Sun in tracks like “A Neck for the Nameless Noose” and “Cartilage Imperfect” while “Austere Urns” even exhibits some Pan-Thy-Monium weirdness. This demented playfulness permeates the entire album. Adding to it all is an element of melancholy death metal that I haven’t heard since Gorement called it quits. The first proper track, “Gazing into Melted Night,” especially reeks of it and it later merges prominently with that Cathedral-gone-death/doom sound in “Arteries Unblest.” The whole unpredictable amalgamation is a musical highlight of recent years for me.

Damian Herring of Horrendous handled the production and its warm heaviness could not be more fitting for this album. The only odd part is when the sound changes after a spacey interlude about halfway through the final track, “Levitate Within the Curse.” There’s no note of it in the promo, but it must be an early track that they tacked on the end because it’s much more simple and murky than the rest of the album. It’s certainly not bad, but it sounds a little out of place and threw me off a little at the end.

Much like the beautifully rendered visual interpretation of the band’s name on the album cover, there are many musical nooks and crannies to explore within The Deathmass Cloak. I still don’t feel like I have it all figured out, which is yet another great thing about this album. There always seems to be more to discover. The individual facets may bring to mind others before them, but they’re all styles that are in severely short supply and Ghoulgotha has made them their own by molding them together in a way that’s never been done before.

Dark Descent Records has really come out swinging this year with the one-two punch of this and the monstrous, new Desolate Shrine album, The Heart of the Netherworld. I don’t know how they could top these this year, but I don’t really care about that right now. I just want to savor this for a while.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
January 20th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: E. Thomas

    This comes across like Binah meets Excrecation, Tribulation or one of the other icky quirky dm bands


  2. Commented by: Jason

    This sounds like some pretty sick stuff. I’ll check ’em out tonight after work. Great review, Adam.


  3. Commented by: Ben

    Haven’t heard enough of it yet to form my own opinion….. But, you’ve got to read the Angry Metal Guy review. It’s the polar opposite of yours but it’s pretty hilarious (as are it’s comments section)


  4. Commented by: Adam Palm

    Thanks, Jason. Ben, I’ll have to check out that review. Thanks for the info.


  5. Commented by: Juan Manuel Pinto

    This is the kind of album that I would buy just because the cover looks awesome. In fact, besides the CD I would buy the LP even though I currently don’t own a turntable just to own a bigger version of that cover art!


  6. Commented by: E. Thomas

    I also hear some Cemetery “An Evil Shade of Grey” in tbose solos and atmosphereics


  7. Commented by: bast

    I’m enjoying this. Thank you.


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