Roughly one year ago the distinctive one-man mauling machine known as Golden Bats, then located in the vicinity of Brisbane, Australia, released an album named Residual Dread, the first official full-length after more than a dozen demos, splits, and EPs dating back to 2011. As recounted in this review, it was a titanically heavy album, steeped in a kind of gothic gloom, and so haunting in its laments that it threatened to split the heart even as it was splintering bone. With both a persistently brutal punch and an emotionally devastating conveyance of grief and pain, the music repeatedly hit home with staggering force on multiple levels. The songs were mainly slow or mid-paced, and relatively simple in their composition, but the music was tuned like a Stradivarius of suffering, supremely well-calculated to deliver punishment with tremendous primal force, and the songs so well-written that they were very hard to forget.
Since then, Golden Bats‘ alter ego Geordie Stafford has moved to Rome, Italy (just a couple of months ago), and is nearing completion of a follow-up album. In the meantime, he has decided to release some of his older but previously un-released creations, the first of which we’re premiering today. Denominated VII, to place it in line with a sequence of earlier demos, it includes four tracks, two of which are covers, and all of which again demonstrate the crushing power and mind-bending, emotionally wrenching impact of Golden Bats‘ formulation of sludge.
I must admit that I had some fun researching the sources of the EP’s two cover tracks, with which I was previously unfamiliar. The first of them, which opens the EP, is “The War Lord“, an instrumental piece that was the theme from Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1965 film The War Lord, which starred Charlton Heston and Richard Boone. Composed by Jerome Moross, the music was recorded by the British group The Shadows and released as a single in November 1965. It spent 9 weeks in the UK Top 40 pop chart, reaching the #18 position.
The original is kind of jaunty, with a cantering pace and a mix of fuzzy and clean guitar (and tambourine), and a catchy melody with a bit of surf rock in the sound. On the other hand, Golden Bats‘ cover is slower, the rhythm guitar abrasively distorted and tuned to a more dismal scale, and the second guitar joining in to create a morbid harmony — craggy and defeated in the low end and wailing in the higher range. Nevertheless, it still gets its hooks in your head.
That’s followed by one of the EP’s two original songs, “Decapitation Prank“. A long saga, at nearly 12 minutes, it flows beautifully from the cover of “The War Lord”. The pace is a massive, lurching stomp, the vocals a scalding, maddened channeling of fury mixed with flensing pain, the lead guitar melodies a piercing expression of apparitional yet soul-splintering grief. It becomes an unnerving and nihilistic experience, as if dragging the listeners by their hair to the gallows.
But almost five minutes into this mortifying death march, the energy kicks up a few notches, as the riffing segues into a compulsively head-moving chug, paired with a neck-bending rock rhythm and a psychedelic solo — music for the caveman brain, on acid. There’s also something glorious about the music at this point (maybe it’s the fact that “The War Lord” precedes this, but one can imagine Conan riding into battle).
But the song changes again when the drums disappear and a slow, grief-stricken piano melody arrives, backed by deep droning tones and a changing wash of spectral, skin-shivering ambient sounds. It’s a bit hypnotic, and a bit frightening, lulling us into a spooky reverie, both seductive and perilous.
And then we come to the second cover song, “Everything Is Fixed“. In my researches, I learned that the song originally appeared on an unreleased demo by David McComb, formerly of the 1980s Australian band The Triffids, but became much better known when it was recorded by the Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey (a long-term collaborator with Nick Cave) as part of his 2007 solo album Two of Diamonds. As Harvey explained at the time, “Everything Is Fixed” is a tale of a date “with pre destination in the jailhouse while sensitively backed every step of the way.” I suggest you find the lyrics, because they’re hard to forget (you can listen to Mick Harvey‘s recording here).
Golden Bats transforms the song into something much heavier, much more ominous, and much more emotionally fracturing. The vocals, as you’ll expect by now, are skin-splitting in their intensity, while the mutated main riff has become a massive groaning beast, and the leads a mind-bending narcotic trip. This song becomes a big head-mover too, and the lonesome squall and spooky strumming of the guitar seem to reveal the presence of implacable Death.
The second original track, “One Eye Watches the Abyss” closes the EP, manifesting as a lurching leviathan of radioactive doom riffing, methodically gut-punching drums, and acid-spewing vocal nihilism. The mood is claustrophobic and soul-crushing. The music creates an uncomfortable sense of tension and torment, which the reverbed tones of a twisting and spiraling solo push to even greater heights of freaked-out extremity. In a bit of a reprieve, the song does shift gears into primeval headbang territory before the EP bids you farewell, but there’s still madness in the music, and the manifold disturbances of the EP as a whole linger in chilling fashion.
The EP was recorded and mixed by Geordie Stafford at Tym Guitars, and Hear No Evil, Hear No Evil, Hear No Evil. It was mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door Mastering, and includes these guest performances: Noise on the outro of “Decapitation Prank” by Dase Beard; extra guitar on “Everything is Fixed” by Tom Lyngcoln; and guitar lead on “One Eye Watches the Abyss” by Laz.
The EP is available now on Bandcamp: