Open on the fiery tail of a meteor bursting through the atmosphere. The first track of Godcaster’s fervid self-titled album, “Diamond’s Shining Face,” is a reentry, a display of a band metamorphosed into a harder, more devastating form. Their previous releases and euphoric live demonstrations have established Godcaster as an unstoppable Promethean force, always moving towards their next conquest. The pursuit for them on their self-titled album? Write their own definitions of Godcaster, and share exactly how the band hears and sees themselves.
There is a clear maturation from the group on Godcaster—each of the songs are emotional, narrative vignettes showcasing a more deliberate and sincere lyrical and sonic turn. Many of the brighter, bouncier elements found and fiercely executed on Long Haired Locusts and the Saltergasp EP have been all but buried and traded in for something heavier. The angular sass and joviality in the troupe’s past have been stripped of frivolity, rounded out, dirtied, and stretched to create a more expansive, full-bodied practice.
Since their last release, Godcaster’s tightly-knit band—most of the members grew up together in New Jersey—has expanded into a sextet and shifted some of their roles. They’ve added good friend Jan Fontana on bass, and Von Kolk and David McFaul have added some guitar work to their previous stations as vocalists with flute and keyboard duties, respectively. Bruce Ebersole (guitar) and Judson Kolk (vox and guitar)—who’ve known each other since infancy and have been playing music together since grade school—alongside their explosive drummer, Sam Pickard, continue to exude confidence and power in their performance.
With this growth, their fervorous live shows saw the songs from Locusts and Saltergasp grow as well, both in energy and size. This new sound, more hulking, more earnest, and more staggering, has fully settled in for the band, and on Godcaster, it shines through. They have set out, armed with a new certainty, to communicate the feeling of overwhelming light they experience while performing—a brightness that moves beyond its common properties of health and guidance to become a force that burns and ravages.
Nowhere is Godcaster’s newfound immensity better demonstrated than on the album’s two anchoring, ten-plus minute epics, “Didactic Flashing Antidote,” and “Draw Breath Cry Out.” The former sounds as though it was constructed to emulate the hammering of railroad spikes—it feels like hard work. The lyrics, crooned by McFaul, conveys exhaustion-induced hypnosis, a hallucinogenic thirst. The rhythm marches unwavering, with power and consistency, as the surrounding noise flexes and shakes around that center. The latter is more nebulous and kinetic, inspired by a recurring childhood dream of Judson’s in which he bore witness to an unfathomably large silver bullet that pierced the sky and destroyed all light. It flows naturally from big, pressure-filled sections of rising commotion into more spacious, atmospheric wanderings and then back into a nightmarish uproar.
The shorter pieces on Godcaster equally present the dynamism and versatility of the group. “Vivian Heck” is an ecstatic and hypnotic vision of romance, passion, and heartthrob at its most extreme—the guitars and bass swirl alongside soft vocals, capturing the listener in its mesmerizing pattern. Its almost sensual aura is in tension with the strikes of discordant guitars, driving a feeling of impending disaster that culminates in an outburst like a solar flare of sound and color.
While most of Godcaster highlights the destructive nature of overexposure to the light, the band never forgets the caress of a warm illumination. Serving as a brief but welcome respite to the encroaching cacophony, the stripped-back delivery of “Pluto Shoots His Gaze Into the Sun” plays like a lullaby. It’s a youthful serenade of gentle acoustic guitar and vocals originating from a tune that Judson’s niece sang to him one day. Von carries the melody like a birdsong, and allows the listener a moment to breathe before the band tears into the ferocious closer, “Gut Sink Moan.”
The band has tightened their grasp on and further developed their uniquely vicious expression, allowing the music to evolve naturally into its current, monumental shape. It requires significant confidence in the work to release an eponymous album. Trust that Godcaster is an immense declaration of self-actualization by the magnificent juggernaut known by the same name.