I was not just surprised by Goatcraft’s 2013 debut album All For Naught, but also rather taken with its idiosyncratic approach of sole member and US based Lonegoat obsessively hammering away at his piano with little other accompaniment. This approach has been dubbed ‘necroclassical’ by Lonegoat which seems as fine a description as you could wish for to me.
This second piece, The Blasphemer, has not just a classical approach, but a classical theme being mostly (from tracks 8 to 14) based around William Blake’s Red Dragon paintings. It feels like a neat, tidy circle somehow; the arch anti-establishment mystical artist and iconoclast (which should always put a grin on your face when you hear sporting crowds and the like singing ‘Jerusalem’), steeped in classical expression being courted by a classical piece from a musician with a determinedly black metal background. In some respects this harks back to the nineties when musicians from other than a strictly metal background fearlessly stepped into the black metal genre whilst sticking to their own forte without feeling any hipster need to make pointless detours through post-rock.
This does have the immediate tang of coming direct from the artist’s soul, a sharp bright flame of Luciferian inspired music. Entirely instrumental and again like the debut, untroubled by percussion and only occasionally aided with electronic atmospheric intros and interludes such as on ‘Hecate’ and ‘The Great Red Dragon I – The Woman Clothed With The Sun’. Predominantly this is piano; heavy percussive chords and trilling runs of scampering notes, often diving deep into the bass sounds and the violent whirlwind sounds of those first three Elend album’s. There is more drama and less theatrical melodrama on The Blasphemer than on All For Naught. Not a criticism of either, simply a level stare, a shift of the groundwork more suited to the central Blakian theme. It is also heavy, hard edged music. There is nothing pastoral here. True to its theme of fire, this rages alone in the darkness but instead of the bitter cold of most black metal, this burns hot.
It is difficult music and it it’s not for everyone. You won’t come from this humming themes or whistling melodies. What it will do though is swirl around your mind, rising up when you let down your guard. Having said that though, there is a great deal here for black metal fans as well as neo (or necro) classical and neofolk fans. It has a true spirit and an undeniable and seductive fire and, in addition, for me it has the edge over its predecessor in focus and atmosphere. It almost edges into outsider art, so singular is it; the sound of the lone artist in the dark corner, their muse forever whispering to them and their fire burning bright. I like to think that in context, William Blake would approve.
Step outside your black metal comfort zone and into a different but no less true space. Excellent.