This estranged royal son of Cadmus arrives home disguised as a traveler and a hidden blade set upon revenge. In the midst of his arrival a growing flock of feral maenads indoctrinate in his wake, as if the very aura of he Dionysus were sending them to strip and dance into such a foam that they’d begin to hunt with lust for life and blood equal. Pentheus, torn as prey limb from limb, was never any match for a treacherous ‘God’ and yet no part of Euripides’ The Bacchae would occur as a clever bout of blasphemy until long after the old religion had crumbled beneath civilization. Characterizing the Gods as flawed and petulant as humans surely are is ultimately the most righteous way to subvert the majority provided by zealous religion but, none of it has any chance of sticking a thorn into generations without a useful parable to pass along. None of this plays into the miserably caustic era of today, a time of excess without any potential revelry in the great pleasures of life, not without massive cost to the overpopulation of dwindling environs. To be certain a globe-spanning ache of regret for old excesses and the plain chaotic suffering of successive generations since has yet to fully sink in for those still stuck two generations backward; There creeps ahead an unburiable sadness offered by the psychic foresight of art– A mourning of tradition and steadfast maintenance of old altars in the wake. The sweaty, slithering psychedelic doom metal of Stockholm, Sweden quartet Goatess yet drains the Oenochoe and dreams uncontrollably of the goats slashed nape, bearing down upon change with blood-warmed hands to control new bleeding on ‘Blood and Wine’. In the past they’d dry their hands of red, and minds of tribulation, in the desert but this latest sacrifice appears with a broader spectra in mind and a new voice to guide the rite.
Formed around 2009 as Weekend Beast the early days of Goatess where explicitly described by the project’s name; A side project among friends or like-minded fellows who’d tired of the predictable nature of the Scandinavian doom metal format. By 2012 their modus was in action, a foundation of the 70’s and 80’s traditional doom metal they all loved that took a heavy tip from the stoner metal and desert rock influenced methodology of ‘modern’ psychedelic doom metal. The whole thing had shown enough merit to warrant a name change, and the traction provided by the presence of Christian Linderson (Terra Firma, Saint Vitus, Lord Vicar, Count Raven, etc.) meant they’d all hold it together for several years as a distinct and professional entity among the stoner/doom metal headspace. ‘Goatess’ (2013) was a remarkable record for its ease of psychedelic doom slipperiness and heavy blues tinged performances. It also had the luck of being released during a long drought between Lord Vicar albums, providing the Chritus fix folks have come to appreciate more with every release he’d touch. By the second album they’d lost the fire and were largely blowing smoke for the full hour of just ‘up to par’ psychedelia found on ‘Purgatory Under New Management’ (2016). Linderson would leave presumably to focus on Python and Lord Vicar; Around 2017 Karl Buhre, who’d recently joined as the new vocalist for a very, very different album from Crucifyre, would fill the void nicely in Goatess and serves as a natural presence within ‘Blood and Wine’ today.
Change is a good thing in the case of ‘Blood and Wine’, which presents a small evolutionary motion towards Goatess‘ heavier stoner/doom metal side that strips away some of the psychedelic excess of the prior album in favor of songwriting that shakes it up (pace, guitar sounds, stylistic moves) more often as the full spin expresses. The marriage of Acid Witch, early Electric Wizard, and Sleep‘s modern bumbling influence and the more starkly existential bareness of 80’s doom metal has never been exactly this impactful in terms of Goatess‘ own compositions and production values. You could make the argument that this is a slight return to the first album but, without Chritus‘ sense of placement you’d be hard-pressed to justify it. Buhre‘s tone does have a hefty mid-90’s Scandinavian stoner metal/heavy blues vibe but it becomes less important to nail down a decent comparison as ‘Blood and Wine’ does a fine job of charming my mind away from too-serious analysis. Goatess‘ greatest strength is inhabiting two worlds at once while giving off the distinct stench of traditional doom metal, something akin to Holy Serpent, The Well, or Black Pyramid (‘II’ album specifically) but with a much more succinct grasp of stoner metal flourish that’ll twang up a la Orange Goblin or Fu Manchu as often as they’ll buzz out a riff worthy of Cirith Ungol (“Black Iron Mark”) or Sleep (“Dead City”).
So, having remedied the sameness of the previous album and provided a solid platform for their new vocalist to thrive within it’d be fair to say that the old pros in Goatess have survived (and thrived) through a considerable bout of change, adapting beautifully. It isn’t a summery, easy-grooving blues for the new millennium album, though.– Pangs of love, loss, anger and despair highlight the relatively sorrowful and intoxicating power of ‘Blood and Wine’ as it is surely a traditional doom metal album at heart. Is there any great existential dread felt? Nothing so hopeless at a glance but there is a no certain light at the end of the tunnel either; “Jupiter Rising” particularly signals hope for increasing spiritual wealth, though this juxtaposes with the hard-hit grooves of “Stampede”, a bit of a muscular defiance before the record ends with the very extended 14 minute jam of the title track. The whole of these parts does end up managing a satisfying 66 minute run although I think the Buhre era of Goatess should consider utilizing his impressive range far beyond what they’ve done with ‘Blood and Wine’. Highly recommended, particularly to fans who might’ve dropped off after ‘Purgatory Under New Management’. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with the duo of “Dead City” and “Black Iron Mask”.
All things eternal. 4.0/5.0
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