Press releases in general are typically excessive affairs, but those accompanying new music can be particularly unbearable. Take, for example, the opening promo blurb for Yersinia Pestis, the latest “necroclassical” offering from Goatcraft. Apparently, Lonegoat created his solo-piano project because he was “disappointed by a stagnating metal scene incapable of renewing its original spirit and sheer power.” Setting aside this mindset’s removal from reality (especially considering the album’s release on the excellent I, Voidhanger Records), it’s also an interesting assertion considering the musical response that Lonegoat feels is fit to offer. It would seem obvious for someone with this opinion to then go ahead and attempt to fix the “problem” directly by creating metal with these supposed qualities. But instead, Lonegoat created an album that not only rests within a discernible comfort zone, but heavily relies on the music which he critiques.
Describing the sounds contained within Yersinia Pestis is a simple task best summarized by Goatcraft’s overall description. Accompanied only by dark ambient backgrounds on the latter half of the album, Lonegoat channels black and (a bit of) death metal atmospheres into piano dialogues. Varg’s prison cell tinkering comes to mind, though the album is more thematically adjacent to Dissection and Emperor than anything by Burzum. A few of the riffs on the album are particularly engaging, with tracks like “Plague” truly feeling like Lonegoat encapsulated a ripping, weeping tremolo riff and released it through the strokes of his piano. Sonically, Lonegoat achieves a perfect sound for the atmosphere he seeks to capture; his resonant keys dance within a cavernous space.
However, as successful as Lonegoat’s compositions may be, they’re inherently unable to maintain intrigue upon repeat listens. The album’s clever reminiscence and interpretation of established metal tropes ultimately leaves the listener craving a release from a foreboding introduction. This is truly what Yersinia Pestis contains: a collection of expanded intros, interludes and outros that hint at full songs that never arrive, causing a auditory loss of inertia. If Lonegoat had truly fleshed out his compositions to include more instrumentation and development, there would be a different conversation to be had. But as it stands, there isn’t much to discuss about each track beyond an initial listen. It all amount to snippets from a vocal-less opera: undeniably emotive, but too bare to be truly moving.
Classical and dark ambient have been components of extreme metal for decades, and Goatcraft more so provides an enjoyable reminder of that fact than a visionary reinvention. Those looking for delicately detailed music or a sacrificial soundtrack will enjoy Yersinia Pestis, as it’s a pleasant listen for fans of blackened, unpleasant music. But while Lonegoat aimed to reinstate the fundamentals of metal, he truly only provided ten launching points for listeners to press pause and revisit any number of classically-minded extreme metal albums.