Creation from the dissolute as preservation, a meaningful cyclic concealment of grace wherein all five elements rend spiritual action to sulfuric ash — All five senses align five organs of perception stirring the five organs of action into revealing grace toward newness, additional coating via passivation of the ‘self’, presaging dissolution. Even if the combined Satanic-meets-Vedic aesthetic is just for the sake of cleverness and striking imagery from Nivala, Finland borne melodic black metal quintet Goats of Doom and their sixth full-length album, ‘Shiva‘, the tone of the album reads as appropriately auspicious and pervasive, gracefully wormed into mind. Śiva is himself a unification or, composite of many spiritual beings that’d take countless cyclic iterations to persist as an icon of universal proportion and here by the scaling of their decade mark this Finnish band begin to resonate far beyond expected bounds via sickeningly engaging melodicism and simple, authentic capture. It is their most direct and gloriously distinct release to date.

‘Shiva’ as a complete and utterly redeeming black metal experience is up front about pushing against the unidirectional grain of the northern-ish Finnish variety of melodic black metal songcraft and audio-visual design, sporting high contrast line drawings from Spellgoth (Horna, Trollheims Grott) as cover art and equally bold, somewhat ballsy production values. The amount of room they’ve given themselves to resound here is considerable and the songs themselves are up for the challenge as Goats of Doom have never been exactly this anthemic, lead driven, and in service to mind-encasing melodic devices. All of this wouldn’t be so impressive without witness of the larger transformation of the band which we can trace from a fairly average symphonic/pagan black metal trio, who’d been Arabesque within their melodic statements in the early 2010’s, towards the “serious” shift to fortitude in 2018 for their fourth album ‘Rukous‘. Of course we could consider ‘Alla Kirkkaimman Tähden‘ (2017) the breakthrough take but, 2018 was when it seemed the band had caught on fire in terms of inspiration and songwriting that wasn’t so one dimensional or, self-conscious at all about where to fit in beyond their own sensibilities. The project had clearly chosen to go their own way, and the direction they’ve picked lands upon me as addictive listening starting with ‘Tie on hänen omilleen‘ (2020) which I’d been impressed by early last year via a short review. The foundation had been lain therein and now ‘Shiva’ builds the Goats of Doom house of māyā in response.

The beginning or, what we can consider the nameable apocalypse “ἀπōκάλυ” is but a wave from which the momentum of ‘Shiva’ builds as a whole, defining the experience as a linear “rock album” ride with resonance beyond singles or, just one magickal song to carry them all. I’d gotten it into my head that there was a bit of late 90’s Sentenced guitar influence in part of the opening riff but I’m not sure if mentioning “Dead Leaves” will do anything more than date me as listener of Finnish sap. This first song doesn’t stand out in any outrageous way but it does break the ice, neatly setting us within the still feral, still anthemic headspace of Goats of Doom with a strong and catchy enough piece; Of course this is immediately pressed to fall out of the other ear when shoved through by the unbridled stride of “Uljas uusi maailma”, its simple but evocative lead guitar statement ringing on high just twenty seconds into the piece and carrying it through. If you’d been impressed by Sielunvihollinen‘s similar knack for the anthemic and melodic in April this record will appeal to much the same tendencies, perhaps taking a path of lesser resistance if we consider the rush to guitar hooks we find throughout ‘Shiva’. The spirited movement of the song and its title (“brave new world”, more or less) do not yet tell a story but they have set the bar high in terms of flipping on a Goats of Doom record and expecting something as “big” as these pieces are, if only because it sounds like they’ve been doing this for years and expressing some kind of transcendental experience in the midst of it. “Luomiskertomus’ dabs away some of the Finnish grit in their work and represents one of several examples of this band reaching for a sort of Franco-Suomi blended black metal attuned melody, even if we could consider this one of the more low-key tracks on the album it is yet a favorite rhythm-guided melody on the record for my own taste.

The sole single from the album, “Armon Varjat” is our first taste of a different bit of nostalgia, well, it isn’t Moonsorrow or Satanic Warmaster in spirit but there is a bit of gleeful delirium in its movement that includes brilliant folkish down-stroked guitar progressions and group sung parts that invoke this reverent darkness which emanates from what we can perhaps read as folk metal muscle memory, wailing rock solos included. At this point we’re deep enough in the album to have gotten the general artistic intent of ‘Shiva’, Goats of Doom have been working on the finesse of their “hooks” via lead guitar work for placement within the anthemic black metal songcraft they’ve perfected beyond 2017 or so, opting out of the usual droopy shoegaze towards triumphal yet still distinctly Finnish devastation. It creates the mood of the villain who pushes the sword deeper in their chest, a man who’d laugh while he died, those finding glory in death however it is served. Nowhere is this more felt than “Rotat”, a second apex on the running order placed expertly right in the deep cut sector of Side B as a seal upon the experience, with the nearly nine minute “Shiva” its closing ceremony.

What pushes ‘Shiva’ into view as a remarkable melodic black metal record is its obvious appeal despite their making a number of unorthodox choices, being a bit bold outside of the lines makes for an album that could read as joyous, driven, sentimental and above all else a pleasure to listen to for its neat hooks and wily conviction. It is perhaps the best kind of propaganda in the sense that I am inspired in the midst of it without fully understanding it, Goats of Doom capture this feeling of singing praise and striding purpose which should easily possess the sentimental melodic black metal fan with ease. Instead of rattling off the requisite “Oh, how the potential grows” statement, I’d found myself satisfied with the experience in the moment, not thinking so desperately about what’ll come next and this is indication well enough that ‘Shiva’ will hold up on my shelf at least. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire
RELEASE DATE:May 31st, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Melodic Black Metal

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