FOREVER DEAD, FOREVER STONED
|Cover artwork by Hunter Hancock.|
Few artists have been able to articulate the unnameable dread of horror better than Francisco Goya. He is perhaps best known for his ‘Black Paintings’, of which “Saturn Devouring His Son” is arguably the most well-known (it even graces The Obsessed’s ‘Lunar Womb’ re-issue album cover). But my favorite is “The Colossus” (I recognize that the painting has recently been re-attributed in recent years to a follower of Goya’s, but that is also in dispute. To me, it remains a Goya original). The painting features an unclothed man looming behind a green landscape in an apparent mood of rage, tiny peasants flee in the foreground. What the artist shows us so clearly in this work is that horror can be a matter of perspective. Put the figure in the foreground and the scene changes to what may be a caravan of death heading toward our now defensively postured “giant”. Phoenix, Arizona based doom trio Goya live in the same world that we all do. Their perspective, though hardly unique, informs every note, every syllable of their music and it’s apparent that what they see is a melting pot of horrors even the great artist from whom they take their name would struggle to articulate.
The driving force behind the band is guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens. The band’s 2012 demo featured an entirely different lineup, aside from Owens himself of course and featured a much different sound. It’s impossible to escape the Electric Wizard / Sleep influence as it creeps into every crease and fold of ‘777’, something that was merely hinted at on the band’s demo. To get a sense of the change in sound compare the old lineup demo version and new lineup album version of the song “Blackfire”. The vision the band articulates so well is that unnameable dread that ultimately looms over every action taken by man, that life is a losing battle at best and utterly hopeless at worst, in short the essence a particularly vitriolic strain of true doom.
Owens and company discharges vitriol like they were born to do so, which I’m sure they were to some degree. If you did actually bother to compare the two versions of “Blackfire” or “Night Creeps” for that matter, you will see automatically how much dirtier the new versions sound. The album is of far superior sound quality to the demo, as it should be, so the ‘dirt’ or grit comes from the performances themselves. I hesitate to call them ‘sloppy’ performances, as little half-millisecond hesitations and deviations make ‘angry’ seem like the more fitting descriptor. It’s that extra little build-up that makes every strike, every strum, every accent just a half-millisecond stronger, angrier, more meaningful. It’s dirtier you see, and there’s a tiny little speck of rage in every pinch of dirt, always has been.
Well if something as beautiful as a flower can grow from a pot of dirt, then something as diabolical as ‘777’ can also spring forth from dirt’s raging potentiality. And make no mistake, this is a malignant album which takes a jaundiced view of the world. Of course, as any horror fan knows, and as Francisco Goya understood and helped us to understand, there’s beauty to be found in all that evil. Like a flower which grows from rage, the riffs on ‘777’ are the tits of Baphomet. The syncopated guitar / drum interplay is undeniably gorgeous, peaking on “Necromance” (a #1 hit on the Doom Chart). The riffs are of such a quality that a song like “Death’s Approaching Lullaby” remains hypnotic and driving even while stretching towards 13 minutes in length. Perhaps the magnum opus and overall mission statement of the LP is closing track “Bad Vibes”, it’s the spike after the touchdown, the rotten cherry on top.
If Goya succeeded in reminding us that all living things eventually fade, die and decay, then they have done so by creating something immortal. ‘777’ may or may not go down as a doom classic, but to call it the most hate-friendly collection of festering riffs since ‘Dopethrone’ may not be too great a stretch, though the band doesn’t disguise it’s influences well enough to consider it a true classic for those with a sense of the genre’s history. Then again, it doesn’t appear as though they bothered to try disguising anything, because Goya doesn’t care what I think, or what you think, or what anybody thinks. They aren’t trying to write doomed anthems for the world, they are in it for themselves, and though that may sound selfish, it’s the only reason to do anything in this world, you just have to know who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place to have any success at it. It sounds to me like Goya have those things sorted out.
Highlights include: "Necromance" and "Bad Vibes"