Fresh out of Brighton, UK, King Goat stunned the heavy music community with their 2016 debut effort, Conduit. Critics and fans, me included, were enthralled with their take on doom metal. Now they return with their sophomore effort, Debt of Aeons, fresh off of being newly signed with Aural Music and repackaging and releasing their first album with their self-titled EP. Their brand of larger-than-life progressive doom metal remains intact, but key elements from before seem downplayed. This drags the album down, seemingly proving that ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall‘.
The way this band conveys scale is a little different than a lot of doom bands. King Goat mostly let the progressive elements do the talking, using soaring singing and monstrous melodies to lift a listener up, whereas the doom elements would drag the listener down into a void or earthen crevasse where even your internal thoughts would echo. The result teeters more on epic theatrics than debilitating and overwhelming soundscapes. The title track’s slow, low build up to dirty, operatic, riff-driven metal captures this mood, in addition to the band’s range, well.
“Eremite’s Rest” has a powerful start with a driving riff and Trim’s sky-high vocals that turn dark at a moment’s notice. The harmony that appears between guitars and vocals a couple minutes into the song is a nice, well-paced trot through arpeggios. The harmonies return throughout in various forms and different tones to some success. “Psychasthenia” is a sweet, mostly instrumental track. It’s all atmosphere and mood, with a thin layer of reverb on the guitars and faint voices permeating the background of the mix. It’s eerie and plays more like a post-rock endeavor with some psychedelic and noise tinges.
Another big draw to King Goat has always been the vocals, and they have been expanded on well with this album. Before this record, Trim mostly used clean singing style across an impressive range. This is is still intact, but he widens the range further toward the top and bottom ends of his vocal capabilities. Sometimes his vocals teeter on death metal like on the last third of “Doldrum Sentinels”. There’s a reason a small segment from this section of the song was used for an album teaser; it’s the most powerful part of the record.
“Doldrum Sentinels” is without question the highest point of Debt of Aeons. From the descending guitars at the beginning to the extended, more spaced out ones at the end, this is a wonderful interpretation of doom metal. It’s urgent and has an anxious pace, but opens up spatially in the middle to keep from being stressful or grating. It’s the album’s lead single and in making it so, King Goat have essentially spoiled their own album’s best parts, like an oversharing movie trailer that reveals all the best jokes or hints a little too hard at a narrative twist. This brings me to other issues I have with this album…
It pains me to say this, but, simply put, this album is just not as catchy or beautiful as I know King Goat are capable of. The melodies on Conduit pleased my ears a lot more, and the vocals were regularly more evocative and monolithic (an example is the huge harmony on the song “Conduit”, about midway through). This darker path that the band has decided to go down isn’t without its good moments, but in making this change, the band seems to have lost some of the color that made them vibrant before. The bleak ruins hugged by dust and a sky coated in blood and rust found on the album cover bleed into the music as well, making it grittier and tougher than before, but also more unrelenting and uncompromising than its predecessor. This is not a bad thing per se, and I recognize the band’s core sound and energy are still there, but it’s quite apparent to me that something key is missing from the formula.
Your mileage may vary – famous last words of any reviewer – but Debt of Aeons shows King Goat turning down a different path that I did not foresee. This album overextends the scope they built on their previous work and the work buckles slightly under that weight, but the stellar moments still keep me coming back. If you want a different approach to doom metal that straddles crushing darkness and unsettling melody, you’d do well do check out this album.
Notable Tracks: “Eremite’s Rest”; “Doldrum Sentinels”
FFO: Below, Spirit Adrift, Crypt Sermon