Artist: Goat Semen
Album: Ego Sum Satana
Label: Hells Headbangers Records
Released: February 24th 2015
Written by: Aaron Michael Kobes
Admittedly, when I was first looking for a band to do a review on for this month’s country, my eye was drawn to Goat Semen for all the wrong reasons. Was I curious about the band as a whole? A little. Was I more interested in saying that I, “Just discovered a band called Goat Semen”? Absolutely. Then I actually listened to Ego Sum Satana, and was absolutely destroyed by what I was presented with, a Blackened Thrash/Death Metal effort that is insanely; fast, harsh, grating, visceral and gut wrenching to the point of unwittingly adopting a begrudged sour expression while listening to it as a result of how transcendental the feral energy of this album is.
Before diving headlong into the tempest that is Ego Sum Satana, I believe that it is worth discussing the title, as it gives contextual clues to the voracity of the music itself. The term, I believe, is a subversion of-rather than a derivative of the Latin phrase, “ego sum qui sum”, translated to mean “I am who I am”. Taken at face value, it is relatively innocuous to simply subtract “qui sum” with “satana”, a word that needs no translation in how close it is to its actual meaning. However, viewed within a biblical and cultural context, it takes on a much different meaning. Biblically, the original quote is the quintessentially Latin version of “YHWH” (god) which is the name the deity gives himself when speaking to the character Moses in the book of Exodus, giving the newly introduced term an adversarial intonation. Culturally, the substituted name serves as a declaration of separatism from a non-native mainstay that echoes the founding of early Second Wave Norwegian Black Metal. Naming themselves Satan on record, in both senses of the word, puts them in direct opposition with the most influential religious force within the country, and also the most foreign, Catholicism. With that line established, it is easy to see the viscerally real frustration and animosity that could be conjured up in the name of lost heritage we’ve witnessed before in Norway. Thankfully, this go around, the brutality has thus far been consigned to studio recordings and live shows.
The album begins in a ritualistic fashion, with an almost Industrial bent to it, with the soundscape more like a churning mass of volatility than any sort of instrumentation. It is not long before we are introduced to the first screams of the record, expressed in the form of guttural wailings which serve as the underpinning of the satanic benediction, inverted as all things satanic and therefore at the beginning rather than the end. A singular voice, modulated into duality incites, “Glory and praise to you, Satan, in the heights of heaven where you reigned/ And in the depths of hell where you dream in silence/make my soul one day/ Under the Tree of Knowledge…”, as the wailings become muddled with the Industrial noise until the prayer ceases and we are left with a wall of concentrated noise. Punching its way out of this wall is the second tract, Holocausto, which begins with a barreling drum breakdown. After the initial beat down, there is an exercise in brevity in the form of a quick guitar bridge, before the true carnage is unleashed.
This is also the point I realized how severely I underestimated Goat Semen, ten seconds into the track we are given an all-out assault of Blackened Death, as the instrumentation seemingly collides into itself with the insane pacing giving off a frenetic energy that stimulates an adrenal response. The pace slackens briefly after the initial intensity before once again picking up, this time with the addition of rabid vocals that sound as if the vocalist Erick Neyra is frothing at the mouth with the ulcerated pus that is issuing forth from his gut. It is nothing short of utter brutality in its rawest, and most unrestrained form as it screams its seeming opposition to life, “Hail oh! Satan, in the cleansing fire of hell/free our souls”, capturing the essence of what made Black Metal such an indomitable, maligned, and nefarious outing, even within the metal community. Injecting it then, with Death gives Goat Semen an even more abrasive edge with which to cut themselves from the cloth of Christian conformity within their native homeland.
The next few tracks, Genocidio, Warfare Noise and Revelaciones are a slightly restrained offering comparatively to Holocausto, in the way a feral wolfhound on a frayed leather leash attached the arm of Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down is restrained. To the point, it is more of a formulated, technical-style assault that is more in line with traditional Death Metal than the raw emotive energy that is Black Metal. This is not to say that these tracks are devoid of emotional energy, or that the technical aspect becomes overly pervasive, but rather there is a Blackened edge to the Death, as if it is some form of war blade forged in the technical Death and quenched and tempered in the putrescence of Black Metal, sharpened to a cutting edge. The lyrical content is still largely within the realm of Black Metal, though Warfare Noise, in it’s homage to Death Metal compilations of the 80’s of the same name, sticks more to traditionally Death Metal themes of war and rising up, it still manages to cast a Blackened shadow in its call of, “Mayhemic satanic terrorist troops from South America/…Attack! …Warfare!/ We laid our souls in war… returning to our thrones/ Following the path left by ancient ones …emperors of wrath!”. This could be taken as a rousing cry to return to the old Peruvian belief system, pre-colonialism (Catholicism), with the ancient ones being the Peruvian gods of old, following the path of their teachings while being steered from the perceived faulty path of the now-religious majority.
Breaking away from the “restrained” formula and erupting with even more rabid-vitriolic disapprobation and stark opposition to the overt religiosity of Peru, are the tracks Altares de Pandemonium and Madre Muerte, with their lyrical content of hailing Leviathan and calling for the return of Mother Death. Altares de Pandemonium wastes no time in dishing out the pummeling punishment in the form of rolling double bass kicks and chunky-clean slashing of a guitar riffs that serve as the opening laceration before more harshened-pus filled excretions come bubbling back to the surface and into the open wound. Whatever homage to early Death Metal was given in the proceeding few tracks in high-octave vocality is rent asunder here as we fall further into the territory of Black Metals gurgling and utter ferocity. There is almost a desperation that comes across in the mania of this track, making it feel nearly unhinged. This impression is drawn from the incredible speeds attained in the execution of this track, and coupled with the vocals it further impresses upon the listener a feeling of urgency; as if the instrumentation and vocals were in competition with one another, and the only determination of victory is who teaches the next bar faster. Madre Muerte then takes a slightly different approach; in that it relies less on the brutality of speed and more on the heaviness.
While there are portions of the track where speed is relied upon, it is more so the absence of it overall that contributes to the best part of the track, and possibly the record. A little after the half-way point, we are given a brief respite of the cacophony we’ve heard up to this point, in the form of a singular guitar accompanied by a clanging bell in a time signature that is more reminiscent of Doom Metal than anything else. This gives way to a funereal pacing, compared to the rest of the record, that lends more gravitas to the heaviness already generated within the track. Throughout the progressive chugging of guitar and drums, there is intermittent wailing that finally subsidies as the track reaches its conclusion. The last thirty seconds begin with sustained and measured notes that are held onto in slightly increasing increments until about the twenty second mark where all of the Doom Metal pretense is melted away in one final spasmodic Blackened rush of release kinetic energy, going so far as to throw in a few of the higher noted screams, perfectly encapsulating Blackened Death Metal in a mere twenty seconds.
In the end Goat Semen delivers everything there is to love about Extreme Metal in their (as of writing this), only full-length release, Ego Sum Satana. There is an overtly outrageous, and catching band name that is all at once, slightly unsettling while having its own unique charms, and an equally abrasive and oppositional title to this release. While the album artwork is not as visceral as, say their self-titled demo from 2003(see below), it still works to elicit a specific reaction from both Metalheads and non-Metalheads alike with its usage of the imagery of Baphomet sitting betwixt what appears to be the interpretation of Death opposite Man in a symbol of balance that is most assuredly missed due to the shadow cast of the central figure of Baphomet.
There is also the music itself to consider, which is an intense, unique blending of genres in their most aggressive and extreme forms. Goat Semen has captured within Ego Sum Satana a form of unbridled rage typically reserved for the most aggreged among us, and which would leave many of us debilitated beyond the point of purposeful functionality. However, it should be lauded that the members of Goat Semen have taken their righteous fury and channeled it into something amazingly constructive, even if the end result is seemingly deconstructive, and once again, in the fact that they have contained the brutality and bloodletting to recording sessions and live performances, trusting that they will be brutal enough to carry the message without the unnecessary frills and retractions of outright violence.
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Goat Semen on Bandcamp: