Ghoulgotha unleash death and doom punishment, grasp bloody roots on ‘The Deathmass Cloak’

GhoulgothaThe idea that classic doom and death metal are rotting, stinking corpses can have a few connotations. First, it could sound like those styles of music are dead and decaying out in open space, choking listeners with the stench. Or, and most accurately, it can mean that the true spirit of these forms of music are as vital and punishing as ever, even if their guts are sticking out and spilling on the floor.

Slithering, hulking band Ghoulgotha are committed to keeping alive the early spirit of doom and death metal, especially when those forms have crossed paths, with their debut record “The Deathmass Cloak.” Their name is a takeoff on Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified that translates to “place of the skull,” and that whole thing is depicted in great horror on the cover of this killer piece of work. So there’s your connection, as the band says it is paying homage to the “old skull” of death and doom metal, which they do with great power and ugliness on this 10-track, 53-minute effort.

Ghoulgotha coverAs for the forces that comprise Ghoulgotha, they have had hands in similar efforts elsewhere and make up a beast that has proved it can get as heavy and grimy as need be. Included are vocalist/guitarist W. Sarantopoulos (you know him better as Elektrokutioner, who has added his filth to bands such as Encoffination, Father Befouled, and Decrepitaph); guitarist/bassist I. Mann (Void Ceremony, Weightlessness); and drummer C. Koryn (Ascended Dead), who form a fantastic, gooey bond and who have no qualms drubbing and horrifying you for nearly an hour. This stuff is made for those who want their death and doom as dusty and decaying as possible, and their stuff actually would be perfectly suited for the middle of autumn, when nature begins to die and fade away.

“Solar Awakening” is a strange, obviously cosmic-sounding intro cut that lets noise blend and warp, leading into the first proper cut “Gazing Into the Melted Night.” There, a burning doom riff greets you at the gates, with mean lurching and massive punishment being distributed right away, guttural growls that become a hallmark of this record, and moody, melodic playing designed to suck you in and keep you there. “A Neck for the Nameless Noose” conjures grim imagery and is built on sorrowful guitar, throaty vocals, and slow-driving morbidity, making you feel every ounce of the horror on this song. And there is plenty to be had, by the way. The final moments get a little more vicious, with the band going for your throat and driving you to the ground. “Austere Urns” opens with some glimmering doom guitar lines, like green neon cutting through a roomful of smoke. The band eventually settles into a groove that should mash the hell out of you, with more ferocious growls, slithering madness, and total soot. “Saturnal Rites” has a dizzying beginning, making your brain spin with what’s going on, yet they eventually delve into the muck and cover everything with dirt again. Strong melodies are unleashed at the same time, but the absolute drubbing they dish out cannot be avoided.

“Prophetic Oration of Self” is full of damage and mauls slowly, with power bleeding, slow, raspy growls telling the morbid tale, painful start-stop thrashing that leaves you sore, and gloriously dark lead guitar work that casts a heavy shadow over everything. “Arteries Unblest” maintains that anguished, brutal assault that travels in the dirt and drags you along with it. This is a display of pure, total doom, and a heavy exercise in the grittiest of sounds, though it segues into a section of acoustics that allows for oxygen to return to your lungs. It doesn’t last, as the band rips the song open again and pours fuel on the already blazing fire. “Citadel of Heathen Flesh” is kind of quick and to the point, at least compared to the rest of the record. The track trucks pretty hard, with ugly vocals over top and a finish that drowns in a haze of noise. “Cartilage Imperfect” is crunchy at the start, with weird riffs that perplex and growls that are crawling with monstrous intent. The riffs are a strong point, which isn’t a shock, and the end is wholly devastating. Closer “Levitate Within the Curse” is the longest of the bunch at 11:40, and it’s one hell of a strange trip. The guitar work feels like its melting and dripping blood everywhere, with the melodies coming off slurry and the vocals coming in feeling gruesome. The pace changes a lot during this cut, from more mashing and straight-forward, back to drunken staggering, and back again. The last quarter of the song slips into science lab blipping, giving the song a chemical feel, but that slips into crazed fury, outright violence, and meaty thrashing that eventually comes to an abrupt, surprising end.

Ghoulgotha’s devotion to the poisoned roots of doom and death metal is admirable, and their debut “The Deathmass Cloak” is the first must-hear debut of this admittedly really young year. There is so much to be excited about, from the grainy transmissions to the putrid heaviness to the overall appeal of their diseased display. This record is both dangerous and a ton of fun, one that’ll have you checking each corner of your rooms for any abandoned skin and bones you may have forgotten you left there while in this band’s grip.

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