In their quest to provide the definitive versions of Hellgoat‘s full-lengths thus far Boris Records have now reissued their second album, ‘Death Conquers All’, on vinyl which I guess was originally released in 2011 as a CD only release through the since inactive Graveless Slumber Records. ‘Death Conquers All’ saw the Atlanta, Georgia based project still entirely enamored with the old spirit of early second wave black metal while taking a small step away from the primitive Von-esque beatings of their debut ‘Blasphemy From Serpent Tongues’ (2005), which received its own reissue back in 2017. Frantic and brutal as if intentionally conjuring the rapacious bulge of early Beherit, Profanatica and the reckless brutality of Black Witchery there is no point on ‘Death Conquers All’ where that core trio aren’t snapping out blasting speed or bestial stomping horror. Their raw, lo-fi approach to guitar tone provides a grating wall of ear-piercing Satanic black metal noise that will admittedly only appeal to a the most true and raw niche of black metal. The goal is clear from the first howl of “Slay the Lamb”; An over the top mockery of the holy lie lay ahead, set to recklessly brutal and ruinous black metal that distinctly aims towards the early classics of United States black metal with some grey area explored between the old masters of primitive brutality and modern war metal. A bit of a far cry from their current line-up’s more streamlined sound and an ancient relic compared to the slick thrust of related project Vimur.
Chances are if you’ve heard of one good Atlanta extreme metal band one of their members is (or has been) in another pretty good one you haven’t heard of and that was the case when discovering both Berator and Vimur in the last few years and finding those connections to Hellgoat. I’m not of the ilk who piss all over USBM because it’d been fine from the start if you weren’t a symphonic metal turdlet back in the day but, I do understand how a generic looking black metal record can generate a “Who gives a shit?” response when flipping through releases. I’d more or less had that feeling when I first put ‘Death Conquers All’ on; It was grating for the sake of it and I know from experience that this sort of anti-production can take about twenty spins to even start to sink in. Any hopes of an ‘easy’ long-lost hipster black metal record were slapped out of my head right away, for better or worse. After giving it a chance I’d say it was about fifth listen where I dropped the snobbery and just followed the flow of the guitar work and it wasn’t long ’til I started to appreciate the brutally simple drum style that seemed to balance Finnish war-like rawness and Ledney-esque skulduggery. It doesn’t help that ‘Death Conquers All’ is trunk-loaded with its most stunning tracks, though. Side B is leagues better and worth the wait getting there with tracks like “March of the Corpse Rats”, “Warmarch Anthem” and the closing piece representing the finer material within. No doubt the strength of the line-up at the time expressed within their longer and more demanding compositions.
Though I had to drown myself in it to see the light I did come to appreciate the sheer violence of Hellgoat and how ‘Death Conquers All’ was a smart mid-point in their discography so far in moving within the bounds of the first album’s rawness while also providing context for the shift towards brutality and complexity that’d come with their 2015 full-length afterwards. No frills or wild variation present themselves and there is some comfort in a record of pure savagery, battery, and ungentle misanthropic Satanic guidance. The classic Satanic spiritual, a black metal album pure and ear-shredding, is not at all a dead art in the hands of Hellgoat past and present. I love and appreciate the blasphemy in ear though I wouldn’t say it’ll be a record I’ll remember without some effort and engagement with the sharp packaging and insert. A good updating of the packaging and the pristine novelty of the vinyl format go a long way to make the experience a lot more coveted and appreciable, it is without a doubt the definitive version of the album and sits nicely next to the fine job Boris Records did with their 2005 album as well. For the average black metal listener this gets a moderate recommendation, I don’t think it’ll stand out without some intentional focus. For the die-hard USBM fan who wants some ‘old school’ skull-gnawing Satanic black metal to scour their mind with, this’d be a no-brainer as a recommend.
Through the skin bleeds the word. 3.5/5.0
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