We have not heard anything from Goatpsalm since 2012 release ‘Erset La Tari,’ a ritualistic and dark ambient exercise that took us into the crypt-like tombs of ancient civilisations. At the time we were not even privy to who these sinister and shrouded musical explorers were but now they have somewhat come out of the darkness and into the light to reveal themselves. Actually hailing from Russia this project contains the likes of Vaarwel from Frozen Ocean, Horth from Karna and Sadist from various acts such as Baal Zebuth and Cyber Baphomet. Now they have really developed upon the ideas of their past work and it is quickly evident that there is much more substance here than there was last time around. Again we are led down dark paths on a journey that takes us into the “ethnic music of the Far North Of Russia.” Without knowing this though you could easily get a fix on things musically as being what you might expect from a Shamanic trip out to the old USA with the native tribes there. This took me to a similar place that has been focused on by the likes of Nechochwen and Blood Of The Black Owl.
It’s a highly immersive expedition travelled over 7 tracks and nearly an hour’s worth of music. Indigenous wildlife makes its eerie call over ambient sounds as ‘Grey Rocks’ is born into life. Whispering words describe the rich atmospheres of the setting and the cry of the loon as a slow drum beat takes form. Jagged riff work is next before Vaarwel’s guttural rasps fill the gaps along with some ethnic sounding instrumentation. It feels very much like a historical voyage of discovery and this time around it is much fuller in both sound and indeed life with a lot going on in it. The melody is heady and expansive and the music has an epic flow. Whether anything herb or plant wise is ingested or not we are taken into the ‘Flowers Of The Underworld’ next via tribal percussion and clay flute before the track broods into a slow and rugged sermon both musically and vocally, which pretty much borders on funeral doom; something Russia has a very proud heritage of. It’s a 14 minute track so you have plenty of time to lose yourself in it but things are lightened somewhat by some fragrant female vocal warbles and traditional instruments along to the hefty, slow mantra of sound.
Shorter passages are next such as the sound of surf and waves, birds and a twanging guitar on the frothy instrumental ‘White Sea.’ ‘Orphan’ brings in near experimental jazz structures and adds a real skewed sense of rhythm to it which is kind of disconcerting before the weathered vocals growl in. There’s a Jew’s harp twanging away here and the drums are monolithically pounding in a slow gravid fashion. Much more metallic in nature is the grit and gristle of ‘Bones And Sinew’ a distempered vocal roar is unleashed, keyboards make a weird clarion call and there’s a much angrier and distempered vibe about things as if the tribes are gearing up to a bloody battle. By comparison it’s all about dark ambience for lengthy instrumental ‘The Waylayer (A Great Spring Hunger)’ That prehistoric mouth harp, sounds of quiet jangling bones or bells rattling in a breeze along with chanting fill it with atmosphere. Finally we arrive at the title track itself, slowly binding everything together hypnotically moving from whispers to roars and to eventual gnarly climax.
Downstream is very much an album that you will have to work with, not an immediate listen at all but one that will develop unlocking its mysteries over time. It feels like it has been methodically constructed and it’s an album that should certainly keep drawing you back. Experience it via the link below.
(8/10 Pete Woods)