When you’re a Stoner-Doom-Death Metal hybrid band from Saskatoon, whether you like it or not, chances are pretty high that you’ll end up calling yourself LAVAGOAT.
There’s really no way around it. It’s a given. In fact, legend has it that when said band were mulling over said name, all four members, in an identical demonic alien-overlord voiceover no less, simultaneously addressed themselves as GOATLAVA. It’s common fact that Canadians don’t like to follow orders so they opted to switch things around a bit, but in the long run, the merging of volcanic-liquid-death and the most Metal of all creatures (besides alligators, silverbacks, great whites, Tazmanian devils, hyenas, etc.), the billie goat, is simply your only sound option; especially when evil supernatural forces use you as their own personal marionettes.
Suffice to say, LAVAGOAT have taken their über-Metal name and ran with it. They released a favorably reviewed self-titled LP in 2010, and have since followed that up with a formidable 2012 EP called “Monoliths of Mars.” If the eerie cover art and album title didn’t give it away, LAVAGOAT enjoy splicing elements of sci-fi and horror in a way that’s reminiscent of both Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft while carrying on the space-themed carnage of bands like UFOMAMMUT, VULGAARI, and to a much lesser degree, WORMED and RINGS OF SATURN.
LAVAGOAT balance Death and Psychedelia adroitly, adding a smoky uncertainty to the album’s otherwise crunching violence. “Monoliths of Mars” is just four songs, but it hits like a heavyweight – its shortest track, “Galactic Dementia,” is a hair over six minutes, and the self-titled finale stretches to nearly 22, although roughly 11 minutes are of the frightening feedback and sound effect variety. The aforementioned closer, “Monoliths of Mars,” is a gargantuan Doom excursion that effectively summarizes and emphasizes on the preceding three tracks and then closes with the album’s most melodic moments; a fetchingly beautiful arrangement of ghostly guitar lines that could have just as easily been played for another 22. Dig that grooving solo.
While the Space Metal thing is certainly well-done, replete with big Doom chords and floating Psychedelic echo, the band hits their best mark when they ante up the pace, merging their thunderous bluster with an endangering Thrash tempo; a trait that can be found on the tracks “Forge of Vulcan” and "Galactic Dementia.” One possible reason these faster, chugging sections work so well might be due to the only slightly above-average vocal work. When the band meanders into Outer-Doom territory like they do on “Planet of the Dead,” the vocals are perhaps too forward, a bit awkward, and simply not as awesome as they are when the instrumentation is a little busier. Still, this is as minor a setback as there could be; the chorus on “Forge of Vulcan,” in particular, is strikingly bad-ass.
From the above description, it could possibly be gathered that the Psychedelic parts of “Monoliths of Mars” are perhaps its weakest, but that would be a grave misconception. LAVAGOAT mix fury and lethargy surprisingly well. The production enables the drums to hit like an asteroid belt and the bass sounds off like an intergalactic vacuum, all the while providing a sturdy foundation for the excellently trippy guitar work that does a successful job of transmitting its listener into an alternate dimension.
In hindsight, the music isn’t overly technical, but there is a semblance of progression that helps things along, and while the riff work is loud and reverberating, it remains difficult to coin it as ‘original’ with a straight face. It’s plodding and mean, just the way it ought to be; just don’t expect any out-of-body experiences. Their hybridized style should help them in the long run, but a more concerted and passionate effort in their next release, something with an even greater focus on the musical unknown, should lift LAVAGOAT far above their earthbound peers.
Fans of Death and Doom and Space-themed Psychedelia need not dawdle. LAVAGOAT are legit and “Monoliths of Mars” should help illuminate their place in the underground Metal scene.
ME(n)TAL NOTE: You can buy their album for 4 bucks on Amazon. Get on that.
(Online July 10, 2012)