Samuel Goff 2024
Photo: Cacophonous Revival Recordings

Samuel Goff Faces His Traumatic Childhood on New Album

Avant-garde artist and producer Samuel Goff unleashes a fascinating exercise in catharsis on his second solo album, This Is My Body, This Is My Blood.

This Is My Body, This Is My Blood
Samuel Goff
Cacophonous Revival
26 April 2024

Scores of artists in all areas of media have used their art to express the frustration and pain of being raised in stifling, conservative, often religious-based households. The subject matter is ripe for deeply felt creative expression. The best of it can reach a type of catharsis that is therapeutic for the artist as well as a deep, meaningful experience for the listener. Samuel Goff reaches these artistic and – one would hope – healing milestones on This Is My Body, This Is My Blood, described in the press notes as “a concept album about the role religion and Christianity has played in Goff’s life and commentary about growing up in a strict Christian household in the South”.

The Virginia-based Goff runs the experimental label Cacophonous Revival, known for releasing off-the-beaten-path albums focused primarily on free jazz and noise rock, and This Is My Body, This Is My Blood is Goff’s second record of his own material, following 2020’s Transmissions. That first LP featured dark, ambient instrumental music with a heavy emphasis on percussion (drums are Goff’s primary instrument). The new album has plenty of vocals, including spoken word, low-registered growls, experimental vocalizing, and even some hardcore thrash screams. It’s a roughly hourlong trip through Goff’s psyche, always thrilling and never dull.

Goff sets the scene immediately in “Lamentation”, as a percussive pulse runs through the song while effects swirl around him as he speaks of unusual childhood memories. “Sometimes Daddy would handle snakes in church,” Goff says in his Southern drawl. “Carried on the tradition from his daddy. Two preachers, two snake handlers.” Goff also describes his mother with what sounds like a mix of curiosity and fear: “I think she meant well, but she was disagreeable and would holler at the littlest thing / I always had the feeling she was afflicted by something that was deep inside.” While Goff tried his best to keep his distance by staying in his room and writing, he followed his parents’ lead by praying regularly, but with a different goal: “Please, God, take me away / Please, God, take me away.”

In the press notes, Goff accurately describes This Is My Body, This Is My Blood as “a fractured, dark and gothic take on folk music”. When he’s not speaking or singing directly of his struggle, such as on the snarling, industrial “Ache” (“I give you all I have that’s left / You break me down and spit me out”), Goff is creating wordless vocal experiments on the swirling, menacing “Witch Spit”, atonal soundscapes with bowed cymbals and gong on “My Heart is a Sinful Vessel”, and widescreen white noise miniature symphonies as on the stunning “Inheritance” (the latter brilliantly produced and mixed by multidisciplinary artist Jen Kutler).  

Goff is heavily involved in the performance of all nine tracks on This Is My Body, This Is My Blood but is ably assisted by a variety of musicians, including Kutler, guitarists Lucas Brode and Gavin Wade, Jessika Blanks on violin, Opal X on drum programming, and K. Hamilton Nagle on piano, glockenspiel, and violin, among others. Goff provides keyboards, electronics, drums, percussion, samples, and more. The instrumentation may be wide and varied, but the result is so singularly focused that including everything involved makes perfect sense.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the record’s intense focus, the styles are refreshingly eclectic and varied. It’s not just because ambient pieces coexist comfortably with the slightly more traditional vocal tracks. For instance, while “This Is My Body” implements an industrial, gothic swagger, the breakneck, hardcore punk of “This Is My Blood” packs a satisfying, pummeling wallop with much higher beats per minute.

The storytelling mode Goff introduces in “Lamentation” continues in the brutal “Faith Quenches the Violence of Fire”, an epic, nail-biter of a story of Goff’s mother’s loss of faith, set to relentless, percussive noise. The final song, “I’m Never Coming Back”, is another recitation, which serves as the beginnings of closure, as Goff reflects on leaving his small Appalachian home for good to join the service – a way out of the madness. Over the gentle but tense instrumental backing, Goff says, “Time has passed. Some of the pain has lessened. Trauma is like a tattoo, though; time may fade it a bit, but it’s always there, always with you.”

One hopes that This Is My Body, This Is My Blood is Samuel Goff’s successful exercise in healing, an artistic therapy session. Goff has poured his heart and soul into this release, and anyone listening to this utterly fascinating album has the potential to be greatly moved by it, just as Goff has been somewhat calmed and freed by it.

RATING 9 / 10