Hailing from Kansas, Godless Angel released their newest album in February via Inverse Records. It features nine tracks of groove crushing, neck snapping death and thrash metal... all of which were was written and recorded by just one man - vocalist/guitarist/bassist/drum programmer Derek Neibarger.
So, how good can an album be with just one mind behind the entire operation? I'll be taking you through "Harvester of Souls" step-by-step, and by the end, you'll know just how powerful the number one can be...
Track 1 - "Witching Hour at the Gates of Stull"
Starts off with an awesomely ominous overtone that morphs into one with almost cosmic qualities. It really gets going just before the minute mark with some truly delectable riffage reminiscent of Metalocalypse's "Thunderhorse" combined with an air of a blacker form of classic power metal, death, and good ole' thrashiness. The drums really drive it all home, prepping you for a galloping entrance into the next track.
Track 2 - "Containment Breach in Sector 6"
Here it starts fast and furious into sweeping thrashy riffs and 1:10 enters into a solo fitting to the fast pace. The vocals are executed well in a bit of a higher toned growl (a bit like the style of In Flames earlier work), however they stay relatively consistent throughout which adds an element of predictability to the track. Bearing in mind that Godless Angel is a one-man operation, the quality of it all is pretty outstanding. It truly sounds as though you are listening to a bona fide four-piece, and that is no easy feat when it all falls to one person to bring those pieces together. He starts displaying more versatility to the vocals after the 2:30 mark, reaching a bit deeper and infusing more feeling into the depths. I'm hoping to hear more of those deeper vocals as the album goes along, as you can feel the passion behind them increase exponentially the harsher and lower the growls get. This track is rock-solid without question, and the only downside I can see is that it didn't last longer!
Track 3 - "The Swarm Feeds"
We start this track with a few heavy punches to the face from the pounding of the drums, which are good and primal despite being programmed. My wish to hear more lower growls was quickly fulfilled as they stay present throughout most of this. Derek executes his guitar skills with surgical precision, nary missing a step, sounding off right when it should and how it should. I'm also really digging his ability to infuse every riff with such abundant malevolence - as if he had hired Satan himself as a consultant on this project. Perhaps he did? It seems to be awfully good for just one guy... although he probably is just that good at what he does.
Track 4 - "Samhain"
I'm already disposed to love this track with a name like "Samhain". Anyone who includes a nod to us witches in their work will get only the highest praise from me! Prepare yourself to be shredded right from the start as he wastes no time bursting into a breakneck gait of delicious thrash. The vocals on this have been my favorite thus far - imaginative, unique and ever-changing, all sandwiched between sickly shredded interludes and unrelenting drum power. I feel as though I can almost hear a bit of Cradle of Filth as an influence here as far as the guitar and bass go. Another thoroughly enjoyable, short and sweet creation of Godless Angel.
Track 5 - "Suffering the Wrath of the Goddess"
This track takes a turn down more doom-y territory, and I'm loving it. He starts to pick up speed so slowly and so gradually that you hardly notice speed is being gained at all until about 1:20. Prepare for your mind to be blown at this point as he fuses both a doom tempo with a thrash one, somehow achieving both in the same riffs without one overpowering or being uncomplimentary to the other. The back and forth keeps you guessing, and after 2:30 you are reunited with the signature savage shredding I've come to know and love in previous tracks. It goes out with a bang of potent and powerful vocals and windmill-worthy riffage, making you wish yet again that you had a bit more time to linger on it all.
Track 6 - "Summoning Darkness"
He returns to the more doomy tempo here, hiding little pockets of swiftness like landmines scattered throughout until he bears down on the spurs and kicks it in a higher gear. One thing I can't go on without acknowledging is the passionate power of his vocals, particularly when he holds a low howl over the ever-turning whirlwind of precise cutting guitar solos, perfectly melded bass lines and drums that just don't quit.
Track 7 - "Beneath the Skin"
He wastes no time kicking us straight into another gallop, and I have to say the entire first minute or so of this one is just sexy. There really isn't any other way to describe it... it just feels sexy and leaves little images of sexiness in your mind. That, however, is how you know you've got your hands on a good thing. He kicks up the speed again at about 1:30 and I can guarantee at 1:55 you won't be able to resist windmilling for the remainder of the track. 2:15 brings an unbelievably great solo, and around you'll spin until Derek abruptly decides you've had enough and immediately drops you into whatever delightful wickedness the next track holds.
Track 8 - "To Shred the Soul"
This one starts off swift and sinister. The drums will propel you through here, taking you through a veritable forest of incredible guitar work and unconstrained, mighty vocals. It's short, sweet, and encompasses all the skill you've seen throughout every track preceding this one, almost like an epilogue. It comes at the perfect juncture, as this next track is to be the last one.
Track 9 - "Disemboweling the Deranged"
This track is the longest of them all, sitting at about five minutes and forty-four seconds. He takes some time to give a nice build to the beginning and then breaks for a reprieve, leaving you wondering which direction this track is going to take. The bass gets a moment at about 2:50, setting the tone for more windmill-inducing progression and another well-executed guitar solo. The guitar, however, takes a more haunting tone of distortion at about 4 minutes, and the track begins to fade out from there, disappearing into the void with memories of those shreds to ensure all that you've heard finds its' way into your memory banks.
Overall, this album was a thoroughly enjoyable, high-octane journey through extreme thrash, death and doom in ways you are both likely familiar with but never quite heard in that way before. The fact that all of this was done by just one man is even more incredible, as the quality is on-par with that of your average big studio release. Derek Neibarger should be very, very proud of his work here, and fans of all things delectably evil and bone-crushingly heavy will be in for a treat.
That's why I believe this one deserves a 9.
Hopefully this won't be his only undertaking and he'll return to bring us another dose of Godless Angel. I would very much love to see what happens when he takes his signature style and takes it out of his comfort zone, perhaps experimenting with a few more time changes or adding more theatrical elements/effects to enhance the atmosphere that was very skillfully generated by "Harvester of Shadows" - maybe even throwing in a few elements of influences we might not expect, like black metal or prog, even a hint of clean vocals.
Well Derek, if ever you want to experiment with adding a few cleans to the next one, let me know! Although I'm sure once word gets out about this, he won't have any trouble finding people to collaborate with.
"Harvester of Shadows", recorded between June 2014 and January 2015, is the third release by Godless Angel, following "Year One" (2013) and "Dying Dead Undead Unholy" (2014). It is available now digitally via Inverse Records.
You can listen to one of the tracks from Godless Angel's newest or explore some of the previous releases below. If you like what you hear, connect with Godless Angel via any of these links and let him know your thoughts: