GOAT is a band whose every sound seems like the backdrop to some sort of hazy, bloody human sacrifice; this stylization is their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. GOAT make oversimplified, droning voodoo rock with memorable pop-chants that shrewdly throw in some modern percussive and fusion touches.
Their consistency with this single approach could seem like a revelation to some. If the very idea of heavily dressed up Swedes playing bongos and wah guitar for an entire album offends you, it’s probably best to turn back.
Their debut album World Music lives and breathes through its thick guitars and repetitive masked-woman vocals. A bit of extra percussion on each song casts a shadow over its makeshift deep jungle landscape, adding ominous clouds and towering ruins in the distance. The songs have almost no changes, and you are required to welcome their ramshackle, droning nature with open arms. The only variation you will hear in most songs is that the vocals will cut out, and an organ or guitar will solo.
While this might seem unrelenting and monotonous in theory, it actually works to build a singular cult-joining mood. The songs are definitely of a piece and fit together well. Almost every song is mid-tempo, shambling along with a sort of fanatical aggression that never gets too rowdy or fast-paced. The vocals all stay within the same range for the most part, which is painfully high most of the time. The singer never seems to want to sing completely in her range, so there are more than a few raw moments spread throughout. I guess cultists shouldn’t be expected to take singing lessons. The guitars maintain an almost garagey take on a kraut-rock sensibility, where repetition is emphasized to create a dissociative effect.
Then there’s the band members themselves: GOAT go out of their way to remain a frightening mystery. They dress the part on stage to continue this feeling: members play clad in ceremonial attire, feathers, masks, beads, fake blood, bare chests, etc. The band claims to be from a cursed town, rarely reveal their faces, and their names are mostly unknown.
The easiest stepping stone into their world is the simple and effective “Goatman.” The first of three songs with their band name in the title, it will get stuck in your head, even though there are only three or four notes in the vocals. Pretty much every song on this album follows this song’s template: a sample, then an introduction to the guitar and drums, then percussion comes in, and then the frontwoman commands you to do something ancient and evil.
“Let it Bleed,” which is not a cover, has a solid guitar hook and vocal chant. But they don’t ‘let it be,’ instead deciding to throw in a left-field screaming sax solo while yelling the song title emphatically. Some decent Zombies-esque organ pops up along with an insistent guitar riff on “Disco Fever” and gives the song a nostalgic feeling. “Run To Your Mama” is almost conventional African Savannah-blues-rock but has an off-kilter sensibility and production that keeps it interesting, and it helps that “Run” has one of the more fully formed vocal performances. In one of the few instances on the album, she sounds like she’s opening up her heart a little bit, if only to cast off a lover. Or maybe she’s just taunting one of her bloodied victims. Or both.
A few songs could have used a few more takes. “Goatman” has a smattering of off-key guitar chords, which may have been part of the songwriting but sound out of place and sloppy. Another song with goat in the title, “Goathead,” is almost an album peak, but a slightly off high note in every verse brings it back to earth every time. One of the only limp offerings, “Golden Dawn” never quite takes off. The album closer, “Det Som Aldrig Forandras/Diarabi” fits as a conclusion, but meanders aimlessly without much to hold on to, unless you have some half-decent peyote.
What worries me about this band is that they might churn out a healthy amount of decent, slightly innovative psychedelic albums that never change much a la Clinic. The biggest problem with World Music (and Clinic) is that many songs blend together, and sound very similar in purpose and construction. The songs don’t exactly point anywhere more interesting quite yet, as it seems they have nailed down their sound on their first try.
The band claims in interviews that the songs they bring in for recording are never finished, and they end up finishing them as they record. While it does help them seem more dangerous, this approach works against them for the most part: the dearth of songwriting refinement results in a lack of a widescreen experience some of the songs beg for, and GOAT could really grow as a band if they were to expand the scope of the songs with a handful of changes and put effort into having more dynamic vocal performances.
It’s great to wander aimlessly through their dark forest prison, but the listener needs a few clearings and waterfalls for variation.
When the album works, it’s because they stitch together a few similar elements that blend well and avoid overexertion. Typically, the afro percussion contained inside would be used alongside cheery guitars, with a light and upbeat atmosphere, but in these instances it is satisfyingly oppressive and well-rehearsed. This, combined with the walls of Dungen-esque guitar and possessed chanting surrounding you, conjure up a feeling that is terrifyingly womblike. GOAT puts anyone that dares run afoul of their ceremony on a spit and roasts them alive while they celebrate, untethered from reality, in the sacrificial mud.
GOAT’s World Music is straightforward: messy yet focused in its attempt to marry gnarled psych-rock and threatening world beat with a shaman’s ramblings. World Music is mostly successful, and it’s a solid start to a hopefully fruitful career in psyche-fusion.
by Ryan Myers