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Goatlord : Reflections Of The Solstice

Goatlord's 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is above all a monument of devotion to Evil forces.

A band's career is nothing like a straight road, especially when it really takes off. On the border between Death and Doom metal with some extra satanic hints to proto-Black Metal, Goatlord's music shook the underground like an earthquake with its 'Sodomize the Goat' demo, inventing a new way of playing extreme metal. That was in 1988. A contract for the release of a full-length should have been the next immediate step, but, although some labels came knocking on the door of the band's temple, 'Reflections Of The Solstice' didn't hit the stores until 1991.

Satan loves to put spokes in the wheels of its dedicated servants, creating those kinds of incredible stories which legends are made of.

First, 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is the story of the artistic conflicts that appeared between the band's members: the emblematic vocalist and founder Ace Still versus the rest of the band – to express it briefly, he felt like playing some doomier and more psychedelic music when they wanted it more brutal and thrashier. After many discussions and before Goatlord entered the studio, Ace Still left the band and developed his own side-project, Doom Snake Cult, to materialize the funeral hallucinations which haunted him. But as the band was recording in the studio, an unexpected twist happened: Ace Still came back and recorded his vocal parts…before leaving the band for good! What is particularly striking is that meanwhile, Goatlord had enrolled Mitch Harris – who left Righteous Pigs for the occasion - as the new "permanent" vocalist! Whether he had previously recorded all his vocal parts for Goatlord or just the few choruses remaining on the song 'Sacrifice' is still a mystery now... What is certain is that 'Reflections Of The Solstice' was recorded by a complete quartet with Ace Still on vocals. Contrary to what the back cover credits state, Jeff Schwob’s part was limited to the bass (those credits also scratch out Frankulin’s name).

Then, 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is also the story of a contested production job, the final result sounding like rubbish to some of the members. Obviously, the sound on 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is very far from the raw and filthy grain of 'Sodomize the Goat', being even more "corrupted" by the drum work, executed on an electric kit (an idea Mitch Harris gave to Jeff Nardone). That was one of the reasons why Goatlord decided to remix the album - released by JL America as a self-titled album the year after.

Finally, 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is the story of serious troubles with a notorious label: Turbo Music. This is the same label that simultaneously released the “alleged" first full-length of Beherit, 'The Oath of Black Blood' (in fact, a compilation of two already existing releases) without the band’s permission. Concerning Goatlord, the scam for the label consisted of keeping all the money and sharing nothing with the band. That was the second reason that led Goatlord to release another version of the album. Nevertheless, Turbo Music morphed into Metal Age Recordings several years later and released Goatlord’s album again in 1999 (on a side note, a similar misadventure happened to Acheron with their album 'Rites of the Black Mass').

Above all, 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is a monument of devotion to Evil forces. Despite it having been released at the beginning of the 90's, this effort is still strongly rooted in the 80's. Driven by a Doom/Death/Black Metal style which had reached maturity, the album radiates a very intense darkness, like a philosopher's stone of extreme Metal. Goatlord appear as a focus between different poles, like Celtic Frost were several years earlier. The influence of the Swiss band on this album is obvious, especially considering the early days and the 'Morbid Tales'/'Emperor's Return' pair. The way both bands evolved is particularly striking too. The metamorphosis between 'Sodomize the Goat' and 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is a similar step to evolving from Hellhammer to early Celtic Frost: the musical expression appears less dirty and less cavernous, but the atmospherics keep their mystical and evil aura. This is just a different approach.

'Reflections Of The Solstice' is made up from the songs featured on 'Sodomize the Goat'. When compared to their demo versions, the new rearranged tracks sound more concise and less convoluted. Joe Frankulin regained control on Goatlord during Ace Still’s desertion and you can definitely feel his touch here: more direct, more effective. However, Goatlord's taste for crushing Doom didn't go down the drain, as 'The Fog' and 'Acid Orgy' prove. On 'Reflections Of The Solstice', the vocals are shrouded by echoes and reverberation effects, as if uttered by a possessed spirit in a total state of cosmic trance. The “artificial” sound of the drums also pounds with an eerie and supernatural resonance. The most violent and relentless sequences are the cause of some infernal epileptic convulsions ('Blood Monk', 'Underground Church'). The slowest passages are very effective too, with their binary rhythm enhancing the ritualistic climate. You'll either love it or hate it - like the chicken’s cackles on the voodoo-esque “Chicken’s Dance”, you have to decide for yourself: smart or plain ridiculous?

Some people might miss the very raw and spontaneous approach of 'Sodomize the Goat', but 'Reflections Of The Solstice' is nevertheless a great testimony to Goatlord’s morbid and unholy drive. The Evil is just depicted by slightly different means. These controversial choices do make sense when put together and contribute to the cult status of 'Reflections Of The Solstice'.

But, despite the many very positive responses, despite a new vocalist - Chris Gans - and although the band played an impressive series of gigs to support the release, they also had to deal with serious internal troubles… And the band slowly but surely fell apart, and never succeeded in composing a second full-length. Another story of doom…

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Blood Monk
2. Distorted Birth
3. The Fog
4. Underground Church
5. Chicken Dance
6. Acid Orgy
7. Possessed Soldiers of War
8. Sacrifice

Duration : Approx: 43 minutes.

Visit the Goatlord bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-01-14 by Manu Buck
Hate Your Guts Records
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