Atlanta’s Hellgoat have been toiling away in the USBM underground for over a decade now. Over that span, they’ve released numerous demos, EPs, and splits, along with three full-lengths - the first of which, 2005’s Blasphemy From Serpent Tongues, is about to get the vinyl reissue treatment from Boris Records. The last of the Hellgoat releases that Amon Demogorgon recorded as a solo project, the album takes the primitive, lo-fi cacophony of early Burzum and Von and cranks up the rawness to the point where it’s almost physically painful to listen to, which somehow makes me perversely happy.
Depending on how one feels about kvlt black metal, the album’s defining characteristics will either be a massive selling point or a major deterrent. The guitar tone is occasionally so trebly that it borders on the shrill. The drums are buried so low in the mix that only the hi-hat is consistently audible. The vocals are even lower in the mix and sound like the pained howls of a man possessed by demons. The overall production makes it sound like the album was recorded in a wind tunnel in the middle of a resistance test. I have no doubt that if played loudly enough, Blasphemy From Serpent Tongues could abrade skin. And it’s fucking fantastic. To these ears, it sounds like it could have been a template for a lot of what’s currently happening in the Portuguese scene, and regular readers of this site well know how much I enjoy those bands.
It’s kind of pointless to try to discuss individual songs on the record. Like with most black metal of this style, everything starts to blend together after a few tracks. With a run time of less than half an hour, it should really be experienced as a whole. That being said, the guitar tone on “The Shadowplane” is so piercing that it literally makes my teeth hurt, and the fervor of “Demonic Worship of the Horned Beast” makes me want to pour lines of salt in front of my speakers for fear of what else may come spilling out while playing that song.
The most surprising thing about Blasphemy From Serpent Tongues, though, is how contemporary it sounds. Granted, it was remastered for this vinyl reissue, but I don’t think that’s the only reason no one listening to it would likely guess that it’s twelve years old. Whether that’s an indication of how ahead of the curve Demogorgon was in 2005 or of how little black metal has evolved over the last decade, I don’t know (though my money is on the latter). Regardless, fans of raw black metal should definitely pick this one up, post-haste.
Blasphemy From Serpent Tongues will be available on August 8 from Boris Records.