It seems that there is no stopping the constant uphill climb of the Mountain Goats.
Led by American singer-songwriter John Darnielle, the Goats' have just released their 16th album to date. Darnielle has kept himself incredibly busy and the band's impressive collection of albums has been steadily building since they first started recording in 1991.
Heretic Pride is the latest addition and one that will entice even the best of sheep to the dark side.
Darnielle does not disappoint with his familiar fusion of teetering, transcending and shrill vocals that manage to be both dramatic and tender. He is masterfully rhythmic, while his lyrics weave layer by layer, pleading and entreating, but without being too intrusive. He somehow manages to touch our hearts without being overly sickly, subtly and effortlessly tearing at our emotions.
Heretic Pride opens with 'Sax Rohmer', a ragged anthem where the music slips and slides like walking on ice, whilst he harrowingly and blood-curdlingly promises "I am coming home to you. With my own blood in my mouth. I am coming home to you, if it is the last thing that I do".
'San Bernardino's' introduces us to haunting and mournful stringed instrumentals that are accompanied by Darnielle's gentle, reedy voice. It can't help but leave you hypnotised.
'Lovecraft in Brooklyn' is urgent and gripping, narrative from the edge cuts us as he battles it out with a gritty rhythm guitar. 'Tianchi Lake' on the flip side, switches pace and proves Darnielle can be incredibly diverse in his style. This track sees him at his best as he strums seductively along side the tinklings of a moody piano, changing things down a gear.
'How to Embrace a Swamp Creature' sports some of the album's most gruelling and dark lyrics. We share Darnielle's hopelessness when he sings with morose, nasal beauty the words "I am out of my element, I can't breath. Alone with your bathroom mirror, Trying to get my head straight".
Sharing with us his desperation we are uncontrollably forced to empathise. He adds "I try to tell you why I have come, It's like I have molasses on my tongue" Metaphorically we are given vivid imagery to tantalise us as we are taken along with his poetic, passionate journey of sincerity.
Throughout the whole album the vocals convey jagged feeling with a surprising subtlety. At times it's raw and edgy, embellished with just the hint of a snarl. At other times, it's jaunty or wry.
There is a strong sense throughout Heretic Pride of an unvarnished, living realness that makes the first listen intriguing and every subsequent listen polishes the rough diamond to reveal more beauty. Listen once, listen twice, keep listening and you will no doubt learn to love.