Lavagoat – self titled (2010)

Saskatoon has enjoyed a pretty respectable pack of crossover thrash, crust and grind bands over the past decade, but one area that seemed to be lacking was doom metal.  Lavagoat is here to change all of that.  I found out about them from Graeme at Rites of Passage Tattoo (see LINKS section), who’s also a member of the band.  At that point the band hadn’t yet put out a recording and had just started to play gigs at various clubs in the city.  Every time I went to get some more ink on my sleeve I’d pester about when they were going to get something on disc, and after a fucking kick ass gig at Walker’s over the summer holidays I finally got my mitts on a copy of the band’s self titled debut.

At this point I had already seen the band on two separate occasions, and both times I was blown away by their awesome sound and performance (mother.fucking.heavy.) and extreme usage of the smoke machine (elevating the band over the “non-show” approach of the majority of the rest of the bands in the city).  If there’s one criticism I could level at the album it’s that Lavagoat simply sounds too good live (the videos on their myspace DO NOT do them justice).  The CD on the other hand, which sounds really fucking good (more on that later) just doesn’t quite capture that.  It sort of reminds me of the first time I say Ministry live.  They performed N.W.O. as one of the songs on that set and I’ve never since heard that song sound better, not on the Psalm 69 album and not on any live recordings I’ve heard either.

Graeme explained to me that the band was formed by a group of old school metal heads, tired of the modern over-produced clinical sound the genre seemed to be saturated with, getting together and jamming the tunes they wanted to hear.  Lavagoat is precisely that, old school metal, made by old school metallers, for old school metallers.  If you can’t appreciate bands like Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Possessed, Cathedral, Black Sabbath, and old school death metal from the 80’s and early 90’s in general then stick with your 80,000,0000 bpm cyb3r-br00tal kvlt deathcore metal of the pro-tools now.  If however, you understand what real metal is all about, Lavagoat will have you hailing Satan and banging your fucking head like its 1989 all over again.

What you’re getting here is a mix of 2/3 stoner influenced doom metal with Tom G Warrior-esque vocals and 1/3 death metal influenced doom with vocals that bring back memories of Scandanavian metal greats like Grave, Entombed (Left Hand Path) and Hypocrisy (old stuff) or American acts like Cianide, Morbid Angel or even grind fiends Brutal Truth (old stuff).  So either way, good shit.  Admittedly I gravitate more to the death metal tracks because of my taste, but I kinda dig how the CD can appeal to both sides of the coin.

A lot of the releases in the Sasktaoon metal underground have been CD-R’s with paper sleeves, so I was really happy to see Lavagoat shelling out the extra bucks/effort to put it on a pressed disc with some cool artwork and a professional layout.  The booklet is only a two panel, but you get a slick painting on the cover by Jason Dopko (also of Rites of Passage fame) and another on the inside of the booklet by Graeme himself.  Both are renditions of the Lavagoat I’m assuming, and each has it’s own unique flavor.  Graeme’s style is immediately recognizable, kind of “Image Comics meets Ralph Bakashi meets old school tattoo” and the painting reminded me of another he had for sale at the Ink Alley tattoo conventions.  The front cover goes for slightly more abstract and occult look, and conveys a suitably gloomy cthulu-esque vibe.  Both fit the band’s style like Paul Romano’s art fits the Mastodon releases or Ed Repka's fits every 80's thrash album ever: like a snug black leather giallo killer’s glove.  If the band intends on continuing with the mascot thing (ala Iron Maiden or Megadeth) then I’m all for it.  I also approve immensely of the hand painted artwork in favor of the Photoshop.

The production on this album is top notch, and though it doesn’t sound quite as heavy as the band does live, this album is one heavy fucking beast.  Every instrument is nicely balanced in the mix, so even when the whole band is melting you with molten magma metal, you can distinctly hear each instrument in the sound stage, right down to each guitar in the left and right channel.  And this fucker cranks.  Honestly, it’s another release where no matter how loud I turn it up, it never seems quite loud enough.  Reminds me a lot of the new High on Fire album (Snakes for the Divine) in that respect.

Every track is solid, but my favorites are definitely The House and Rome, both of which feature utterly sick and inhuman death vocals over some of the heaviest doom metal songs you’re likely to hear.  If you like metal and don’t feel the urge to cause permanent spinal damage to yourself via whiplash while listening to The House, you are dead to me.  Also of note is Interstellar Deserts which is a cool mellower track that reminds me of Kyuss (had to drop a reference for ‘em somewhere in there, ha!) and Cursed Emperor that features total NWOBHM style riffing with more throat raping death vocals (a combination that compliments like jam and peanut butter motherfucker).

It's not my intention to kiss the bands ass when I say this, but honestly Lavagoat is easily the best pure heavy metal band in Saskatoon right now.  If you don’t believe me, get this album and the proof is in the puddin’ so to speak.  If you haven’t seen these guys live and you see a poster down town or on Broadway (for us Saskatonians, until the band tours I’m afraid the rest of y’all are shit out of luck) for one of their gigs, get your spiked gauntlets, ripped jeans, smelly jean jacket vest and bullet belt on and get your fucking ass down to the bar to pound some beers and revel in the Satanic old school glory of Lavagoat

PS: Smoke machines have been proven to promote awesomeness so breathe deeply.