YEAR OF THE GOAT's promising 2011 EP, "Lucem Ferre", earned the coveted seal of approval from DARKTHRONE drummer and underground metal tastemaker Fenriz, thereby automatically earmarking the obscure Swedish group's ensuing full-length follow-up, "Angels' Necropolis", as an album to watch in 2012. What's more, even though the desire for commercial success in many ways contradicts the typically anti-establishment nature of such bands, higher expectations must be satisfied if YEAR OF THE GOAT is to compete for attention against the countless new bands casting their lot into the increasingly crowded retro-metal scene.
No pressure, boys.
So before we delve into this LP, let's first look back at that well-received EP, and refresh ourselves on what made YEAR OF THE GOAT special to begin with, shall we? More occult rock in the late '60s, post-psych definition of the term than heavy metal proper, the Swedish sextet's melancholy minor key rituals fundamentally resembled those of THE DEVIL'S BLOOD, only softened with the unorthodox pop music inclinations that made GHOST an almost household name in recent years. On paper, the combination sounds almost as promising as it was in practice - particularly on said EP's stunning leadoff track, "In Darkness".
With that in mind, it should surprise no one that "Angels' Necropolis" is at its alchemical best when standouts like "For the King", "I'll Die Without You" and "Spirits of Fire" (boasting catchy backing vocals!) see fit to offset riffs strummed with folk-like zeal, twin guitar harmonies, and searing leads with languid despondent melodies. Taking this beguiling mix a few steps further, the eight-minute "Voice of a Dragon" contrasts early SABBATH power chords with ghoulish female choirs to great effect; but the even longer, Satan-goading "Thin Lines of Broken Hopes" pushes YEAR OF THE GOAT's experimental comfort zone close to its breaking point before it can finally crescendo with rewarding intensity. More disconcerting still, the ten-plus minute title track arguably falls prey to unnecessary rumination, while "A Circle of Serpents" squanders its welcome sense of urgency on a ramshackle garage rock arrangement that fails to stand up under prolonged scrutiny.
Luckily, the inconsistencies in "Angels' Necropolis" can be partly excused by the band's evident desire to craft a truly original musical statement; and some of the songs' dodgier bits likewise benefit from the lovingly conceived Satanic overtures connecting one and all (these being described by the band as an alternate gospel preaching Lucifer's rise, etc. etc.). Moreover, one can hardly resist the allure of singer Thomas Eriksson's dramatic, almost feminine vibrato, on which much of the YEAR OF THE GOAST musical distinction ultimately rests.
That distinction, though imperfectly articulated across "Angels' Necropolis", still satisfies the aforementioned heightened expectations reasonably well and should earn YEAR OF THE GOAT a little more patience from even its harshest critics, as the group continues to develop its occult musical rhetoric towards the end-goal of expediting their demonic lord's dominion of this world.
- Eduardo Rivadavia