If you’re looking for subtlety, look elsewhere than the Swedish psychedelic collective GOAT.
The first hint that Commune, the band’s second album, will be a strange and deeply serious affair is in the audacity of its opening track, “Talk to God.”
The nearly seven-minute song begins with the slow chiming of bells, the solemn call to worship. And then the hypnotically twisting guitar takes center stage, beginning the conversation. Like the band itself, “Talk to God” is urgent and intense, demanding attention and yet remaining very mysterious at its core.
A tribe of Scandinavians, GOAT appears in band photos of between four and seven members, their faces obscured behind masks that recall everything from Halloween to Mardi Gras to Mad Max. The official band bio mentions Jorge Luis Borges, Nigerian afrobeat, German krautrock and suggests all manner of mysticism is taking place in Korpilombolo, the band’s isolated home village above of the Arctic Circle. (Skeptical questioning of this backstory will miss the point of this album.)
The blended mythology and purposely obscured origins of GOAT are in fact perfectly suited to guide the listener into Commune, a hectically powerful album that borrows from musical traditions much broader than the typical American psychedelic band. An open-minded collection of world influences—often grounded in highly rhythmic traditions—pulses through GOAT, resulting in a versatility that leads to unexpected moments.
Scandinavian black metal doesn’t come close to having the corner on fantasy lyrics and album concepts. On Commune, GOAT takes listeners on perilous journeys to the unknown, to crossroads of ancient tribal significance, and, of course, to the doorstep of the gods themselves.
“Words” takes the baton from the long opening track and distills its force into an electrified three minutes of booming drums and guitars that ring out like saws, screaming as they unleash a terrible energy.
“The Light Within” is a propulsive blend of Eastern mysticism and wa-wa guitar, the chanted vocals sounding like spells cast against the wicked. “Hide From the Sun,” the first single, escalates the intensity to a psychedelic-metal hybrid.
And at the end of it all, GOAT delivers the epic “Gathering of Ancient Tribes,” another heavily subversive exercise in barely contained noise. The song emphasizes a theme that crosses the rest of the album, the deeply ingrained human need for ritualistic celebration and abandon. As the band wails away, growing wilder and wilder, there’s a certain sort of spirituality at work. Abandon your outward self and unleash your inner spirit, GOAT urges, and we’ll all dance around the bonfire again tonight.
In presentation, GOAT makes wild psychedelic rock seem part of ancient human tradition and Commune comes across like an artifact of primal, bygone days.