Sabbatic Goat’s self-titled demo got me thinking about scenes. Where you come from, your inspirations, your immediate surroundings, all these things should come into play on any band’s recording, let alone their debut. But there’s a huge disconnect with Sabbatic Goat in that regard. The hellish blackened death the band spews out on their demo sits in radical opposition to the family holidays, retirees’ paradise and strip-mall bargains of the sun-drenched Kapiti Coast of New Zealand where the band are based.
There’s something distinctly admirable about that. Like the pioneering bands of Florida’s death metal scene, Sabbatic Goat have taken that supposedly buoyant and joyful atmosphere of their locale and turned it in on itself. Reminding us that you can live wherever you like, but you can never escape the fact that your darkest thoughts will always rise up. Sun, beach or celebrations, do what you like, act how you will. Eventually that deep-rooted and painful realization that the world is crumbling and dying will catch up to you, and all that really matters in the end is what you feel inside. Sabbatic Goat realizes that, so they speak right from the gut.
Ultimately, that’s why Sabbatic Goat’s demo gets to you. It’s that instinctual, intestinal punch that comes from a band trying to voice their first words, expressing the frustrations of the world they inhabit. It resonates with you, because whether you want to admit it or not, you want to scream at the world too. If anything, Sabbatic Goat sounds just like the noise you hear in your head when you reach the point of no return.
Featuring four tracks of very raw blackened death metal—three rehearsal numbers, and a live tune—Sabbatic Goat’s demo kicks off with “Intro”. The first track is a slow-baked sketch, a mid-tempo, feedback-soaked warm-up for the guttural savagery of second track “Anemic Swine (Traitor of All Existence)”. It’s here, on track two, where things get real interesting. The song, which features the heavy bootprint of Hellhammer and Bathory (along with Diocletian and Witchrist, which no underground NZ metal band can hope to avoid) features propulsive, scrappy riffs and interweaving guttural and abrasive vocals. Lo-fi, muddy and squalid, the song is well paced, and the crude home recording infuses it with a real sense of recalcitrance and wretched exuberance.
Third track, “Imprecation”, continues in the same vein, with decaying, churning riffs, a fetid aura and plenty of horror-soaked vocals. The distorting throat-scouring howls do a lot to add to its noisome, unhinged feel and a brief dirge-like riff adds some real texture to the tune. I’m hoping the band continue to head in this direction, as the slow drawl late in the song offers a great counterpoint to the rest of the track—plus, it just sounds heavy as fuck in comparison to the rest of the track.
The demo’s final track is a live recording of “Anemic Swine”, although ‘recording’ might be a bit of a grandiose term to describe what you’re going to hear. It’s really just one long smear of noise, a feedback-drenched, thick, noxious and abhorrent maelstrom. It also happens to be really good. The band sounds completely possessed, and if it’s any indication of the strength of Sabbatic Goat’s live show then fans should be prepared to be pulverized.
Instinctual, that’s probably the best word I can think of to sum up Sabbatic Goat’s demo. The band just plays from the heart. They’re a young band, with young members, and with that comes the self-belief of getting their music heard. The band’s demo isn’t refined or substantially developed; it’s messy, rudimentary and coarse. But that’s also what makes it so good—while its crudity might be an issue for some other bands, Sabbatic Goat just turns that to their advantage. The fact it is so rough, and scabbed over with the weight of some of metal’s underground heroes, gives the demo a great deal of character. I hope when Sabbatic Goat do get round to recording their debut full-length that they realize that the chaotic nature of the band is their best feature. The demo shows a lot of promise, and it’s clear the band has a great deal to offer the underground metal scene in NZ (and the world, should they desire it).