If asked to name a favourite German metal band it’s fair to say that such illustrious alumni as Kreator, Destruction and Sodom are likely to spring to mind. But these Teutonic thrash titans are far from the only German outfit to merit veteran status.
And while thrash has always been a full-bloodied part of the German metal scene it’s not for everyone. While the likes of Downfall of Gaia and Der Weg Einer Freiheit are drawn almost magnetically to some kind of post black metal winterland, others – Goat of Mendes, among them – are drawn to a more flamboyant form.
Goat of Mendes have been revelling in what is most commonly referred to as Wiccan Paganism for a quarter of a century now, with that landmark being celebrated through the release of their seventh album Hagzussa- Riding the Fence.
Founding members Surtur and Marco are the driving forces behind the five-piece and while embracing elements of traditional heavy metal and more aggressive thrash, the unmistakeable folk leanings are really what set Goat of Mendes apart from most of their contemporaries.
The band’s name represents the goat-headed god of the witches and this combined with their connection to Wiccan Paganism has provided the earthy foundation for the band over the past quarter of a century.
But forget folk for now, the opening track “Between Here and Thereafter Neu” conjures up scenes of an Indian reservation of the 1900s with a female voice muttering colloquial stories against a hypnotic drumbeat. Goat of Mendes really find their stride on the insane “Maiden, Mother, Crone”, a storming number full of rhythmic wizardy as Sutur sings of ‘witches that dance around the flames’.
“The Crow of War” features a more conventional sustained arcing riff at the start and on the squawk of a crow the German experimentalists embark on a pounding journey in which their more frivolous nature is parked to one side to allow their traditional metal leanings to surface.
Goat of Mendes always seem at their happiest when rattling along like speed metal freaks such as on fiery free-rollers such as “Riding the Fence” and “An Empty Hand (Can Still Clench)” which features the kind of hook that would stop a steed dead in its tracks, propelling its rider straight over the top. Sutur has a powerful style of delivery that commands your attention throughout and puts it great effect at the beginning of the chugging “Samhain (A Visit from Beyond the Veil)”. The rambling closing track resembles a bunch of drunken friends staggering home arm in arm after a night of excess. It’s the weakest of the seven songs and unfortunately brings what isn’t a bad album to a slightly lacklustre finish.
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