Godcaster is one of those bands that has seemed to shapeshift from one single to the next, but their spastic energy and somewhat weirder approach has remained consistent. The Brooklyn based group’s full-length in 2020 crammed a lot of ideas into short song lengths, fusing elements of punk, indie rock, and other experimental/avant-garde ideas that sometimes were reminiscent of a lot of the artists Skin Graft Records has put out over the last few decades. In the years that have passed since then, Godcaster has shifted gears again and returned with a self-titled album that’s just as diverse stylistically but noticeably heavier and noisier. It also finds the band trading in brevity for lengthier, sprawling exploration with two tracks that push past the ten-minute mark, allowing them to explore psychedelic freak-outs and deliberate repetition in ways that create hypnotic soundscapes. It may be a little too out there for some, but those whose tastes span everything from noise rock and punk to psychedelic rock and experimental folk may just find this to be one of the year’s best offerings.
Opener “Diamond’s Shining Face” also served as the album’s first single, and it’s jagged and unpredictable songwriting is what had me immediately interested in hearing the entire thing. It opens with a flurry of noisy guitars and drums before settling into a mid-tempo groove and somber melody that falls somewhere between post punk, noise rock, and post hardcore. It’s the type of track that gets under your skin with a catchy and driving bass groove and softer guitar work that eventually explodes into a wall of sound. I’m not sure what happened to the members of Godcaster in the years since Long Haired Locusts and Saltergasp, but some of the quirkiness and brighter moments have been replaced with much darker and harsher outbursts, and that suits my tastes perfectly. “Diamond’s Shining Face” is just one track out of eight though, and the further into the album you get the more experimental and diverse the material gets. One moment you get lurching riffs that remind me of both The Jesus Lizard and Planes Mistaken For Stars at different points, while others take on a stream of consciousness psychedelic rock/freak folk approach that shifts in unpredictable ways. It’s strangely catchy, often quite weird, and always unpredictable, and that leaves a lasting impression.
The two lengthy songs are likely the ones that listeners will pay the most attention to, and it’s here that Godcaster tries some different things from a writing perspective. “Didactic Flashing Antidote” emphasizes extended periods of repetition and jagged guitar riffs that feel like they’re hammering you into a hypnotic trance, with the repetition and almost exhausting nature of the track coming through like a mid-period Swans song. “Draw Breath Out” opts for a more freeform approach, allowing the song structure to completely collapse around the halfway point for some psychedelic freakouts and periods of complete silence before roaring back to attention. The latter sometimes feels a little overindulgent and just a tad too long, but it’s exciting to hear the band really challenging themselves in this way. I also found “Albino Venus” a little too meandering and it seemed to just come and go without much impact, as the other short acoustic track “Pluto Shoots His Gaze Into the Sun” does this same idea a bit better. But these flaws are minor and there’s so much to dive into here that I’ve had this album has remained on repeat for some time.
Previous Godcaster material often saw a wide range of band members contributing vocals, but this has been pared down on album number two. Judson Kolk handles the majority of the singing this time around, but David Mcfaul and Von Kolk take over on certain songs to shake things up. Judson has this softer singing pitch that has a bit of alternative rock vibe at points, but it often explodes into full-on shrieking and screaming that contributes to the noise rock and post hardcore vibe. Songs like “Diamond’s Shining Face” and "Deaths Head Eyed Hawk Moth” make great use of this, letting the softer, sometimes melancholic singing lull you into a sense of security before the screams annihilate everything. Von Kolk pops up doing some back-up vocals throughout the record alongside Judson, but on “Pluto Shoots His Gaze Into the Sun” she really gets to shine, offering up a softer, bright pitch that provides a respite from some of the darker tones present on the rest of the album. David’s contribution is primarily on “Didactic Flashing Antidote”, where his voice booms over the repetitive instrumentation in a powerful, hypnotic way. There’s a lot to take in on the vocal front, and even though Godcaster has a few less people actually singing now that doesn’t mean there’s any less shortage of variety.
Godcaster’s changed significantly on their sophomore effort, tackling some noisier and even abrasive instrumentation at times while retaining the psychedelic and experimental freakouts that defined their earlier works. It’s an album filled with unpredictable transitions and sometimes feels like psychedelic rock and folk run through punk and post hardcore, which is likely to remind you of a slew of other bands while still feeling wholly unique. A few moments don’t quite hit the mark, but these are minor flaws overall, and this remains an exciting, high energy listening experience that isn’t likely to lose its luster for some time. Godcaster is available from Ramp Local.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg