On July 15th I, Voidhanger Records will release ‘Yersinia Pestis’, the newest full length from Goatcraft. For those that have yet to experience Goatcraft, it’s a one-man project led by Lonegoat and pulls from elements of classical music and dark ambient to create material that draws the listener in with dark and mysterious piano and keyboard arrangements. Though far outside the spectrum of what many consider to be metal, the bleak, nihilistic feelings that Goatcraft has been able to touch upon through its exploration of classical frameworks channels just as much of a ritualistic vibe as some of the darkest black metal bands.
Today we’re premiering the title song from ‘Yersinia Pestis’, which showcases just what Lonegoat is capable of. As you might be able to guess by the album title, this material is focused on the Black Death and the havoc it wreaked throughout Europe. However, rather than stopping there and using the plague as a means to create a darker aesthetic, Goatcraft’s weaves a narrative of man and nature being in an unavoidable dance of death, without ever incorporating any actual lyrics into its work. Each of the piano and keyboard melodies weaves a narrative that the listener can interpret in different ways. The title track is a perfect example, with the notes delivering a haunting tone that will send chills down your spine, and presents listeners with a bleak soundscape that makes it feel like they’re staring death in the face.
‘Yersinia Pestis’ is probably different from the majority of music you spend time with, unless you’re a classical buff reading this metal site. But it has the potential to appeal to a similar audience, spinning a narrative of humanity’s futility that’s up there with some of the best metal has to offer. Along with the song premiere, I had the chance to ask Lonegoat some questions to learn more about the album and its themes.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): You mentioned in previous interviews as far back as 2014 that you were finishing work on ‘Yersinia Pestis’, which will now release on July 15th. When did you start writing this album, and what factors have led to the longer incubation period?
Goatcraft (Lonegoat): Howdy Transcending Obscurity! Thank you for taking the time to interview me. I began work on ‘Yersinia Pestis’ right after ‘The Blasphemer’ was released. After I completed the first incarnation of the album, I, Voidhanger Records stated that it was too soon to release another Goatcraft album. Therefore the recordings ended up collecting dust while I worked on other projects. When the time drew near to release the ‘Yersinia Pestis’, I wasn’t satisfied with it because I had grown artistically since those recordings and I wanted to take time to reflect on that.
I decided to cut most of the album and write new songs from scratch. The new songs were an improvement because I considered it with a renewed vision. And as with other art mediums, the new songs were constructed organically.
TO: You write all of your material solo, but did you also handle all aspects of the recording yourself as well?
Goatcraft: Yes, I’ve recorded everything myself. I may look into revamping my home setup because my PC dedicated to music lost its last limb.
TO: ‘Yersinia Pestis’ explores the Black Plague. Both your liner notes and the narrative that the album presents explore the destruction the plague brought to Europe and the belief that it was a divine punishment from God. What made this topic in particular of interest to explore through music, and did you do any additional research on the plague itself as you began to write this material?
Goatcraft: While researching the Black Death I stumbled upon some information about how Christian zealots absurdly interpreted the disease. They believed it was a supernatural affliction, and their means to alleviate it was to seek penance via self-flagellation. So, in an attempt to appease their God, they roamed around publicly harming themselves. There’s also a rumor that they helped spread the plague by doing this. The song Flagellation for Atonement is inspired by their actions.
TO: My interpretation of the overall narrative is that it starts with the plague beginning to take hold, leading humans to question their mortality and seeking salvation from religion, which proves to be futile. Everything is reduced nothingness and the finality of death at the very end. What I found most interesting was that at the end, as the plague has wreaked havoc across the continent, the last quarter of the album incorporates some otherworldly dark ambient keyboard arrangements. Tell us more about this switchover and how it fits the narrative as a whole.
Goatcraft: This question is like an answer in itself. There’s a narrative sequence to the track titles that can be interpreted in a few ways. Originally the last song (the ambient piece) was going to be a bonus track, then the label decided to sift through the bonus content (which was a wise move so the disc wasn’t overloaded with content). The ambient piece survived the purge and became the last track to render resolution for the album, hence its title Denouement.
TO: You note that with technology and science now fending off death for longer than before, humanity itself has become the plague and spends its time merely existing with no other purpose. But even with all of these advances, we’re seeing an increase in massive storms from global warming and climate change, mainly perpetuated by humanity. Do you think that instead of a bacterium spawned plague, some other natural event could restore the order of humanity vs. nature?
Goatcraft: We’re grossly overpopulated. 90% of the population boom is in the so-called third world/developing countries where their numbers are projected to increase to unsustainable levels. They’ll relocate elsewhere as conflicts arise. And as a result of these movements, there will be clashes. Our civilization is on borrowed time. Not to mention that our planet is being trashed in the process. In nature, when something grows out of control, there are always consequences. The consequences can take form in damage to the environment and/or a shortage of resources to sustain the overgrowth, resulting in a die-off.
Most people have no sense of proportion of their position between the microcosm and macrocosm. If we reject the balance of nature, nature will eventually reject us.
TO: The artwork, created by Daniel Valdez, is stunning. It shows the spread of the Black Plague from the rat to the human, tying in to your portrayal of nature and man being intertwined in a dance of death. How did the collaboration with Valdez come about, and did you have a particular idea for the artwork in mind or give him free reign to explore the concept?
Goatcraft: Daniel Valdez has been a friend of mine since I was 18. He used to play in a band named Gored and I supplied some keyboard interludes for their album ‘Incinerate the Vanquished’ (the tracks Towering Crematoriums & Mass Graves). What set him apart from other acquaintances in the music scene was that we’d often discuss music and such more extensively than most people I’d run across. He has a functional brain which is increasingly uncommon to find these days. Now he’s settled down with a family in addition to being a biology teacher, therefore he doesn’t spend much time in the music scene due to these obligations.
As for his art, he hasn’t made most of his works public (believe me, he should). This is the only album so far in which he’s supplied numerous drawings for. I had faith in him that he’d take the plague concept and run with it. The result of his labor is an iconic visual representation to coincide with the music of ‘Yersinia Pestis’.
TO: You take inspiration from a variety of classical composers. Are there any particular composers or works that you feel portray the same type of nihilistic or realist views expressed in your music?
Goatcraft: Wagner was a Schopenhauerian. Other than him, none of my favorite composers had beliefs that resembled my own.
TO: This is your second release with I, Voidhanger. Following releases with Pale Horse Recordings and Forbidden Records, what made I, Voidhanger the right label to put out your music?
Goatcraft: I have nothing but good things to say about all three labels. Each has been supportive of my music. During the writing process of ‘The Blasphemer’, I sent Luciano the music as I wrote and recorded it, often to have his reception help guide the concept. He’s a very smart man (and expressive: Italy) and he’s a delight to correspond with. Most recently, he’s been gormandizing on classical music and it has been fun to recommend pieces to see what all that he’d enjoy. I figured that he’d turn into a total Brucknerian, but now he’s entranced by Mahler. To each their respective own. I still think Bruckner was the best from that period.
We’re grossly overpopulated. 90% of the population boom is in the so-called third world/developing countries where their numbers are projected to increase to unsustainable levels. They’ll relocate elsewhere as conflicts arise. And as a result of these movements, there will be clashes. Our civilization is on borrowed time.
TO: ‘The Blasphemer’ explored the works of William Blake, and now you’ve explored the Black Plague. What other topics interest you that could be explored on future Goatcraft recordings?
Goatcraft: ‘Yersinia Pestis’ is shorter in duration than ‘The Blasphemer’ but it is the most mature Goatcraft album in terms of the music. It presents old and new styles with a better discernment of the equilibrium between approach and execution. Its successor should surpass it.
It’s too soon to tell you where Goatcraft goes next, but the next album will start with an S:
A)ll for Naught
TO: A few years ago you performed live quite a bit, but I haven’t seen mention of this as much recently. Was there a break from live shows to focus on finishing the album? Aside from the upcoming Dallas date, do you have anything else planned on the live front for 2016?
Goatcraft: You’re correct. I grew weary of playing shows all of the time. Most local level shows have the same bands playing to the same people unless they get an opening slot for a band touring through or if it’s a festival. Everybody knows everybody, and it’s counterproductive to frequently gig in the same towns. So, I lost interest.
TO: What has the general reaction been for your live performances? Do you feel that audiences have been able to understand what you’re trying to portray on-stage?
Goatcraft: It depends on the crowd. When I played the Housecore Horror Film Festival people connected me to horror movie soundtracks. When I played at metal shows people interpreted it as metal piano/neoclassical. Most often I think that people just see me covered in blood playing tumultuous music, and they fixate on that. Goatcraft is still uncharted waters, so I guess the general synopsis is that people see it as something different yet familiar.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Yersinia Pestis’ or Goatcraft?
Goatcraft: Thank you again for taking the time to interview me. I was surprised by how in-depth the questions were. Cheers from the great state of Texas!