Ever since I reviewed their split with Ghost:Hello back in 2020, I have become hooked on Night Goat and resolved to review any future output they may put out so here I am! The band comprises of vocalist Julia Bentley, guitarist/vocalist Chris Bentley, who I also recently interviewed, bassist/vocalist Dalin Jones, guest percussionist Tommy Dalo, guitarist Mike Ramone and drummer Donnie Casey also featured on the album but have since departed.
For this sophomore release, the follow-up to 2019’s full-length debut Milk, the band signed to Portland-based Indie label Black Donut Records. They have also contributed to two tribute albums over the intervening years for both Samhain and Melvins respectively, which should give you a hint as to their sound and which were released by the aforementioned label.
Sister Wolf is an embracing opener with a really grimy grungy underbelly to it that reminds you of very early Soundgarden, but with the terrifying vocals of Kat Bjelland (Babes In Toyland). There is a vibrancy present that reminds you of how awesome that genre used to be pre-Nevermind, making it the ideal start to the album. Ghost Sickness, which previewed over on The Shaman recently, by comparison recalls vintage Neurosis (Souls of Zero) with its post-metal style build-up. There is a strong emotive core running throughout which is unsurprising given the subject matter centres around past traumas.
Wendigo, according to Wikipedia, refers to ‘a mythological creature or evil spirit originating from the folklore of Plains and Great Lakes Natives as well as some First Nations’. The track strongly highlights the band’s Samhain influences with parts reminding me of tracks like The Hungry End and Moribund. Considering I see Samhain as Glenn Danzig’s best band guarantees that this track is a certifiable favourite.
Whether death rock, grunge, doom or noise-rock is your bag, there will be something to please you on Totem…
Blood Circles sounds like The Go-Go’s if they went death-rock, throw in some 45 Grave and you have a gloomy beast of a track while Child Of Owls is a doomier prospect with nods to the likes of Windhand with Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals springing to mind, there is even a melodic psych feel too ala Blackwater Holylight. Rattlesnake picks up the pace with a faster hardcore punk vibe which offers up a nice contrast to the preceding track.
Ritual Of Antlers taps into the band’s goth-rock tendencies with shades of Type O Negative omnipresent throughout, particularly in the vocal department. The oft mentioned (by me) Christian Death also make an appearance with the alternate female/male vocal dynamics, fantastic stuff. Seeing as the band’s name comes from a Melvins tune, it’s no great surprise then that Skin Walk With Me has elements of that band’s sound contained within. There is even some third album Karp evident too which will delight fans of both such as me.
Pale Face Lightning is pretty damn cool, there are elements of L7 in there with some of the punk-metal grunge laden riffing but with the band’s own unique death-rock twist. Finally, Death Crow Dance at over six minutes is Totem‘s longest track and follows a doomier route not unlike classic Saint Vitus with some Flipper added into the mix, what with the liberal use of a sax towards the end. Thus there is certainly that lysergic downer vibe of both bands that make it an ideal way with which to conclude the album.
There is something so fresh yet comfortingly familiar with what Night Goat do and the wide range of musical styles on offer force you to give the record repeated listens. Whether death rock, grunge, doom or noise-rock is your bag, there will be something to please you on Totem.
Scribed by: Reza Mills