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Monument to a Ruined Age by Goddakk (Review)

I find something especially beguiling about Newman’s harsh, brittle soundscapes.
Monument to a Ruined Age - Goddakk

Goddakk got its start as a result of bassist Martin Newman’s struggles to get his main project, Plumerai (who, by the way, contributed an excellent track to Silber’s 2004 Christmas comp), off the ground. It then dawned on Newman that he was still able to create music on his own, after seeing performances by Pamelia Kurstin and Brian John Mitchell (Remora). Of course, bass guitar-centric music is nothing new — Rothko, among others, were already doing it — but as a former master of the four-string myself, I find something especially beguiling about Newman’s harsh, brittle soundscapes.

While the press materials draw up comparisons to the likes of Coil and The Legendary Pink Dots, I personally hear something more along the lines of Philip Jeck’s rolling, rumbling washes of sound. The album begins with the aptly-titled “Opened,” which consists of a low frequency rumbling hum — I suspect some serious guitar pickup abuse was involved here — as lighter, shimmering guitar filigrees bounce back and forth. Newman’s voice, shredded and whipped by a bevy of effects pedals, gasps out from time to time, though his treated vocals are barely able to maintain their form under the soundscape’s onslaught.

“Opened,” like all of the other tracks, are by no means the pinnacle of audiophile perfection. They’re roughhewn, as if Newman decided that the only possible vessel for capturing his sounds was a battered old 4-track and worn-down magnetic tape. However, the noisy, abrasive quality of the recording actually makes these songs stronger than they might have been otherwise. It imbues them with an otherworldly quality that is both strangely beguiling (given the songs’ dark, harsh nature) and rather creepy.

However, it’s not all just sonic assaults and walls of rumbling, head-rattling guitar noise. Songs such as “Unfortunates” and “Crucify You” are surprisingly melodic, given the otherwise clashing sounds that Newman generates. This is especially true of the former. The sounds as if you’re locked inside a church bell tower at midnight, the giant tolling sounds crashing all around you and threatening to cave your head in. However, a wandering organ has something of a structuring effect, while Newman’s tremoloed vocals whisper in from the edges.

“Crucify You” is easily the most song-like song on the disc, as well as the most poignant, as Newman gasps and intones the titular words with increasing desperation, leaving the listener to wonder just who, exactly, is “you.” Newman’s bass guitar takes on a cello-like facade, while additional string-like arrangements combine with the recording’s haziness, resulting in a song that would sound quite at home on This Mortal Coil’s It’ll End In Tears.

Interestingly, Newman had intended for Plumerai to take on dark, oppressive pop songs à la The Cure’s Pornography. I find that somewhat ironic because, while Goddakk’s music is much more abstract than anything The Cure ever did outside of “Carnage Visors,” there are certain parallels between Monument to a Ruined Age and the Cure’s darkest hour.

Pornography found the band delving increasingly into heavily rhythmic songs that were much more atmospheric and stream-of-consciousness than anything they’d done up to that point (or since then). I don’t find it too hard to imagine that, had Robert Smith gone even farther into that darkly rhythmic, crushing sound than he did, the result might not too dissimilar from songs such as “Unfortunates” or “Crucify You.”

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