One of my favorite things about writing for Metal Injection is when I get to cover an album that is a little outside of the sites normal sphere. In fact, as I get older I'm coming to realize that some of my favorite albums are the ones that are far removed from contemporary popular music. Such is the case with Goatcraft's Yersinia Pestis. An album made up of some wonderfully melancholy piano suites and touches of ambient sounds, this project creates its own rules. I mean yes, Yersinia Pestis conforms to traditional Western harmony, but it's the sheer magnitude of the achievement that still gets me. Dubbed “Necroclassical” by sole member Lonegoat I can't come up with a better name for what's been done here. Yersinia Pestis is perhaps the most potent translation of black and death metal into the broad sphere of 'classical music' that I have ever heard. This record is far outside most of our normal spheres of listening, and for some reason I can't put it down.
I think Yersinia Pestis resonates with me on multiple levels. First of all, it has that strangely menacing otherworldly darkness that all of the best black metal has. In many ways comparisons can be drawn between this album and the first few Ulver records. That being said, the depth of the compositions far transcends that which Ulver pieced together in the 90s. This “Necroclassical” sound that Lonegoat has conjured up shows heavy ties back to the later classical masters. The darkness invoked in a piece like the title track has a direct lineage back to the frenzied playing that dominates some of Beethoven's more morbid moments. It's also fairly obvious that Lonegoat spends a lot of time with Mozart's Requiem. Still – there is something inherently flashy about the sounds of Goatcraft. It's hard at times not to be reminded of Liszt or, perhaps a more likely influence, Paganini. Of course, Goatcraft has the foresight to couch this all in a very clear harmonic language, driving the sound ever forward.
At times, yes, Goatcraft feels gimmicky. I also understand why people are recalcitrant to listen to new classical music in 2016. The project definitely suffers because of that, while what Lonegoat does is certainly dark and bleak I'm sure someone more trained in classical music than I could easily point out people who were doing similar things hundreds of years ago. That's not really the point though. The point is that in 2016 there is new classical music and it was written with a black and death metal lexicon in mind. Yes it sometimes feels a little overwrought, but that's part of what's going to happen if you want to bring in Romantic influences into the sound. I'd be curious to see Goatcraft take their core concepts even further and evolve even more on what Lonegoat has done over the years. As is though, Yersinia Pestis is going to have anyone who loves both heavy metal and classical music absolutely in awe.