No matter how us prejudicial critics slice it, it seems that LA’s own Goliathan are playing a dangerous game. Modern doom, plus post-rock, sans vocals. Given each genre’s proclivity for repetition--even with the benefit of vocals to break up the monotony--this Sleeping Villager’s first assumption was not, in fact, that Goliathan writes a particularly dynamic brand of metal. But man, was I ever wrong. Their 2017 EP, entitled Awakens, shot first & never bothered to ask questions, utterly smoking expectations in the process. Albion, released yesterday from Metal Assault Records, only reaffirms Golithan’s profound ability to create nuanced & cutting-edge music. I’m just going to state the obvious: Albion is an absolute Goliath of a sophomore effort.
The titular track is equal parts harrowing & hooky, with a sludgy, crunching tone that blossoms, in the second half, into an ambient passage before closing back in. A toothy bite, if ever there was, with substantial care & thought apparent in the composition. While the driving theme recalls Scheidt at his zenith of aggression, Albion’s willingness to explore & develop an idea beyond the obvious hard-rockin’ extremities is strongly reminiscent of Boghaunter. While mere snippets indicate a lack of sonic cohesion, this track--indicative of the EP in general--flows with such a natural current that transitions simply...happen, without making an announcement first. Golithan are clearly accomplished instrumentalists, but the main takeaway here is that their songwriting chops are top-tier.
As good as the intro track is at setting the stage, Vaalbara is the true crown jewel. Starting off with an intense low end, with hollow drums & no-nonsense bass, Vaalbara employs a motif that feels nearly Smashing Pumpkins-esque in its hooky delivery. There’s something timeless about the central riff--& indeed, something timeless about the guitar across the entire effort. Simple yet layered, driving yet hypnotic. Goliathan writes rockin’ riffs, plain & simple, & their dual guitar-driven melodic overtones are so effortless that the lack of vocals never--& I mean actually never--feels like a hindrance. Album closer Aberration is a bit of an odd duck, but adds a necessarily derivation from the established formula. This piece is a proggy, multifaceted piece of paranoia is an upwards, sweat-inducing climb that simultaneously recalls the jarring angularity of the title track, but still manages to leaves one far from where the album began. If that isn’t a measure of a work’s ability to represent a journey while remaining tied to thematic roots, I don’t know what is. Goliathan know what they are doing, & they do it inordinately well. In this arena (and, frankly, in all arenas) Albion is markedly consistent, and a genuinely beautiful sonic experience.
At the end of the day, vocals, or lack thereof, don’t define the band. This is a trap I have fallen into far too often, but Goliathan has shown me--twice now--the error of these unfortunate ways. It is not genre tags that determine the quality of a musical project, but rather the dedication and passion of the respective musicians. For a band that continues to surprise, this only foretells equally great things to come. From a critical perspective, the only downside is the brevity, but the smartest artists always leave a ravished audience hungry for more. Albion comes highly, highly recommended.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry