It’s a pretty well established rule here at Horns Up that any album from a band with the word “Goat” in their name is set aside for me to review. No one is to touch it upon penalty of ritual sacrifice or death by asphyxiation. Chances are, any band using “goat” in their band name (and there are at least 130 of them) will be pretty hellish, satanic and demented—or in other words, right up my alley. And Goat Semen—who release their debut full-length, Ego Svm Satana this week—does not disappoint.
To say this album is highly-anticipated by more than a very narrow crowd might be an overstatement. Operating under the radar in their native Peru, Goat Semen might not be clamoring at the gates of fame but after a demo (and multiple reissues), a few splits and some live releases, they’ve finally stepped into a proper studio and recorded a blistering, 38-minute LP. The story behind the record is actually quite interesting: the material was actually recorded in 2012 but, due to altitude complications in the Peruvian mountains, the music was slowing down in the mix. The band then contacted Arthur Rizk—who engineered, mixed and produced Inquisition’s brilliant Obscure Verses for the Multiverse—and headed to Philadelphia to complete the album. Finally, a full three years after first recording their material, the album is out—and the results speak for themselves. The final product is a well-produced, well-written work of blasphemous verses that will please not only the Dark Lords of Utumno, but also the listener.
The album opens as you can only expect: with a Latin prayer spoken over a writhing, painful background as some hideous Balrog of the deep, ancient abyss screams in torment. Goat Semen then fly out of the gate with “Holocausto” and “Genocidio,” which are ultimately two inextricably linked tracks—not only in themes, but also in the blast beats, thrashy guitars and throat-ripping vocals that define their sound. The heavy thrash influences are unmistakable from the guitar riffs, the high-pitched, squealing vocals and most importantly, the guitar solos; it’s not the typical formula for a blackened-death metal album. Four of the tracks, not including the intro, are around or under three minutes, yet none are simple, “grinder” tracks. What do they have in common? Each one transcends the narrow and constricting confines of genre allocation.
For me, the album peaks with “Altares de Pandemonium” and “Madre Muerte.” The former is an uncharacteristically thick track, layered with cavernous, echoing drums and multiple vocal tracks. With just over three and a half minutes to play with, Goat Semen packs as much brutality as they can into it, building up blast beats into breakdowns of tortured screams and verse-like admonishments, complete with wailing thrash solos and screaming pick dives. “Madre Muerte,” probably my personal favorite track on the album, packs a lot of parts into a not-quite-five-minute track, similar to fellow South Americans and thrash legends Sepultura. It’s about as successful as a track can be. A massive buildup collapses around the three-minute mark to allow for a head-knocking doom riff, which paves the way for the following ten-and-a-half-minute epic, “Hambre, Peste, Guerra y Muerte,” an effective and successful work in its own right.
Perhaps we have to thank the expansive span of time that Ego Svm Satana took to develop for this unmistakably mature result—a blend of genres that reveals a keen eye for old school thrash. It opens the doors to a promising view of the South American metal landscape, where thrash, doom, black and death metal have blended into one undivided, flowing entity. Is it any shock that Iron Maiden has seen such success down there? The continent clearly loves its old school metal and is, thankfully, developing its own extremely promising scene. And with the success of this album, Goat Semen claim their rightful throne at the front of the blackened hall.