If Lavagoat’s self-titled debut album provides any indication of what life is like in Saskatchewan, I wonder why the province doesn’t produce more ominous doom bands capable of inflicting beautifully horrifying tales of isolation and despair. These eight tracks serve as a solid testimonial to taking what’s been given and finding inspiration where sunshine comes at a premium. Consistently bleak, agonizingly proficient, and thoroughly heavy are just three of a myriad of identifiers for this far-North four piece.
Puritan initiates this cleansing of the wicked with heavy feedback and a slow, condemned rumble. Vocals are layered with one gnarring bite hovering just above another, while a fuzz-groove hums steadily until nails hit a chalkboard as it rolls through bouncing dust ball riffs and clanking cymbals.
Throughout the album on tracks like The House and The Witch, Lavagoat avoid being pinned to any distinct sound, using melody and psychedelia as a sporadic companion to the distorted drag of sludge and marching death. Magma reminds the listener of El Paso punkers At the Drive-In, though smoky psychotropic accents do give way to tinny, out-of-control guitar quasars driven by Graham’s blistered drum-thumps.
The vocals shift from cave-dwelling Lemmy to Will Rahmer-toilet gurgle, at times even breaking into comedic crooning and peaceful acceptance. This multi-faceted assault perfectly complements tracks like the progressive Old Man and The Sea, which owes a debt to Mastodon’s time signatures and mystical themes. Rome tries to claw itself from an army of plodding, marching spongers, moving from medieval melancholy to a soaring stoner riff and back into a chanting throng.
The album improves as it plays, with later tracks highlighting exactly what Lavagoat are all about. Interstellar Deserts/Azazoth is a bouncing tandem of fluttering guitar laced with drums that just patiently hang around instead of steal the spotlight. Wispy and spooky, though also welcoming, the track breaks down with pounding drums and buzzsaws, entering a space-warp jam kicking up rooster tails until an oncoming train howls through the song’s end. The instruments seem to be doing exactly what Lavagoat want them to do.
Lavagoat never douse the listener with more than what’s necessary, exercising restraint at pivotal moments and pulling back the terror just before dragging you up a winding cobblestone stairwell. The album hits the widest spectrum of sonic emotions and can be as cathartic as it is exhausting. I've never been to Saskatchewan, and I'm not certain I'll plan on visiting. But Lavagoat manage to keep their fans warm by pulling their hair and holding their feet to a burning pyre.
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