Darkthrone - Goatlord
Moonfog Productions
Blackened Death Metal
10 songs (37:50)
Release year: 1996
Darkthrone, Moonfog Productions
Reviewed by James
Archive review

I'm assuming most people know the circumstances behind Darkthrone's Goatlord, but for those who don't, I'll go through the story again. In 1991, the band had written a follow-up to their death metal debut Soulside Journey, going as far as to record an instrumental rehearsal tape (which appears in its untouched form on recent demo compilation Frostland Tapes). However, the album was shelved in favour of the shift to black metal that was A Blaze In The Northern Sky. Goatlord didn't come to light until 1996, when Fenriz recorded vocals for the album and put it out on Satyr Wongraven's Moonfog imprint. Perhaps due to the fact that it's not really part of the Darkthrone “canon”, it's one of the more underrated releases they've put out, with most fans regarding it as little more than a cash-grab (and let's face it, Satyr does have a reputation). And although it's less than salubrious to slap new vocals on a demo (basically recorded live in what I assume is a garage somewhere) rather than recording it properly, Goatlord is still prime Darkthrone.

Being recorded when it was, Goatlord sounds exactly like you'd expect, a bridge between technical death metal and crusty, Celtic Frost-inspired black metal. Fenriz' drumming is still complex and all over the kit (he's a very accomplished sticksman when he wants to be) and every song is stuffed full of riffs. However, the nature of the riffs have shifted to a doomier, infintely evil vibe. The blackened atmosphere is increased by the lo-fi production (as raw as Darkthrone ever got) and the fact that Fenriz deliberately chose a typical black metal croak for the vocals. The vocals are definitely one of the few sticking points here, however. As proven by his work on recent albums, Fenriz always seems to sound like he's taking the piss when employing traditional black metal growls. And of course, there are those just plain weird “female” vocals. It's basically Fenriz armed with a pitch-shifter, and the results are weird to say the least. And when he starts harmonizing with himself on In His Lovely Kingdom, it's nothing less than an absolute mindfuck. Though I guess it's part of Goatlord's weird charm. The extra-rickety production, sinister riffs and bizarre song titles (What's a Green Cave Float?) all add up to perhaps the most otherwordly Darkthrone album of them all.

The songs are mostly so complex and obscured in static that they're hardly catchy, but there are a few standouts. The album is bookended by the eerie Rex and the oddly uncharacteristic Green Cave Float, both some of the best material Darkthrone have put to tape. Green Cave Float in particular is a classic, it's melodic Sabbatherian riffs being pretty much unique in the Darkthrone catalogue. Make no mistake, this is prime Darkthrone, as you'd expect from a band who were at the top of their game when this was released. Although the album this was put aside in favour of, A Blaze In The Sky is undoubtedly better and a black metal classic, Goatlord would have made an equally worthy follow-up to Soulside Journey. So much more than just a look at what could've been, this is an essential addition to any Darkthrone fan's collection.

Killing Songs :
Rex, Green Cave Float
James quoted 87 / 100
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Darkthrone that we have reviewed:
Darkthrone - Old Star reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Darkthrone - The Cult Is Alive reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Darkthrone - Plaguewielder reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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