I was about six years late in discovering Golden Bats, a one-man band then based in Brisbane but now ensconced in Rome. I climbed aboard this musical sludge/doom juggernaut in 2017 after the release of the Superplateau EP and then hung on for dear life through the band’s 2018 debut album Residual Dread and a 2019 EP entitled VII, reviewing all of them.
In the recording session that produced Residual Dread, the original plan was to track material for both an album and an EP. But the songs chosen for the album changed once they were all recorded, as some fit better together, so the EP changed as well. And it’s that EP — named VIII — that’s finally being released today, with this premiere as a way of helping spread the word.
To paraphrase what I’ve written before, Residual Dread 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 album was tuned like a Stradivarius of suffering, supremely well-calculated to deliver punishment with tremendous force, yet so well-written that the songs were very hard to forget.
Much the same could be said of the four tracks on this new EP. They’re “stripped down”, gritty, and generally slow in their pacing, all the better to channel their messages of misery and disgust with primal power. They pound and punch so hard that body armor might not save you, but they’re also melodically arresting.
“Proselytiser” might be the most animated of these four tracks. It’s brutishly pile-driving and yet imperious, a mix of spine-shaking chugs and menacing melody combined with enraged screaming, the vocals occasionally doubled for extra fury. It slows into a morbid stagger, the vocals no less unchained but the music becoming oppressive, with a forlorn lead melody adding to the song’s air of beleaguered suffering and loathing.
Proceeding at a funeral pace, “Tombworld” draws from black wells of doom, with its slow stomping rhythm paired to groaning chords, moaning leads, and lacerating vocal torment. A march to the gallows, it leaves a haunting and harrowing impression.
“Castle of Foam” provides a sinister, ghoulish companion to the last track, its shimmering organ chords adding an air of gothic horror to the music’s corrosive, gloom-shadowed stagger. It’s a scary experience, made even more frightening by the raw intensity of the vocals, the punishing rhythmic hammer blows, and the despairing wails of the lead guitar. Near the end, when the pace becomes a bit more energized and the tone more anthemic, the guitar transforms into a hallucinogenic spirit, no less desolate in its mood but more unnerving.
And to close, dread and gloom ooze from the pores of “Exsanguination” like a thick ichor. The song lurches like a wounded beast crying out in agony, but still kicks you in the guts as it goes. The lead guitar emerges as an increasingly soul-searing presence as this behemoth stomps and pulverizes, and then peals like the ringing of fractured bells.
As mentioned, VIII is available today, as a digital release on Bandcamp, and you can find it here. May it tide you over until Golden Bats finishes work on the next album, which is in progress.