Saturday, 18 February 2012

Review: Goatwhore - Blood for the Master

 Ah, Goatwhore. A band with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. From a glance one would say they've become kings in the American underground metal scene, largely because they're one of the few groups that have actually gained some mainstream success. I discovered them when their 2006 album A Haunting Curse appeared on iTunes' "Listeners Also Bought" section for Cannibal Corpse's Kill alongside Decapitated and Job for a Cowboy. If you're not big on death metal, these bands will probably all sound the same. If you're big on the genre, you'd probably look at that selection of artists and thing "Quite a diverse mix there." At first I was a little reluctant to buy their stuff because of their name. I don't think anyone would be able to look at me and suggest that I have any decent sense of sanity left if I had a band called "Goatwhore" on my iPod. Then I thought about it for a bit and my reaction was "Social consciousnesses... Hahahahaha!" and played Alchemy of the Black Cult Sun on repeat for the next week. So, I've really gotten to know their fiery, evil brand of metal that really defies all kind of genre labeling other than just saying that it's extreme. And you'll all be happy to know that that's the way they've kept it for their fifth release Blood for the Master.

 Certainly fans of the underground metal scene will be glad to see that Goatwhore have done nothing to altar their sound to gain more mainstream credibility. There were accusations last year of Ohio's Skeletonwitch, a band that deals with similar matters musically and lyrically having done that with their latest release Forever Abomination when they simply with a thrash-based sound, to the dismay of many worshipers of underground metal. I thought the album was brilliant myself, but you could see that a wilder more uncontrollable and evil force is required to truly ignite the Underground scene and as Blood for the Master's opener Collapse in Eternal Worth instantly hammers listeners in with it's rapid-fire thrashy riffs and the deathly growls of Louis Benjamin Falgoust II, you know the New Orleans quartet are riding hard on the trail to destruction with this album. It shows the group have no time to waste in setting listeners up for what lies ahead. There's no need for any kind of ambient sections that were occasionally present on 2009's Carving Out the Eyes of God.
 So Blood for the Master presents a very unrefined, in-your-face delivery of a eclectic range of metallic influences. Jagged thrash metal riffs are a permanent feature, Falgoust's vocals range from his monstrous death growl and his higher pitched screaming, giving him the sound of the American Dani Filth. And of course, Sammy Duet's guitar work reveals an influence from Venom effortlessly, so their black metal credentials are on a permanent high. Goatwhore are a difficult group to categorize and the best term that describes their music is "Blackened death metal". It's a term that's also been used to describe the likes of Behemoth and Annal Nathrakh but it sounds like a term that was created in a confused panic from the people at the record labels.
 This kind of thing shouldn't be worried about though, maybe we can just call it "metal" and agree that the sound of Goatwhore is definitive metal. Or not. Because it would be cool to see definitive metal being a little more dynamic than what Goatwhore have on offer. I mean, if there's any band you don't want to see completely revolutionize their sound and start acting experimental and look into the use of electronic elements and so on, it's got to be the bands that play with a traditional death metal influence (I can confidently say that I am the only person in the world that enjoyed Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus. Please don't hurt me.) but when listening to Blood of the Master, there is often a sense of predictability lurking in one's mind with each new track on offer. Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred and Death to the Architects of Heaven are both played in a way that they could  now be described as a "Goatwhore standard" with the continuous repetition of a series thrash riff with a major structural change in the middle before returning to the riff that kicks things off. Also interesting is the fact that Beyond the Spell of Discontent has the exact same riff as Between the Immense and the Dead, the bonus track of the group's 2009 effort.
 Overall, this album serves as a mixed bag of metallic goods offering major influence from differing styles of traditional metal, but with little variation on their tracks and constant similarities, there's little to be found on this album that hasn't been present on their previous works. Still, you just know that if Goatwhore made any kind of more streamlined or experimental changes, they would definitely lose a good amount of devoted followers and their devotion and ability to give their sound a more brutal, in-your-face presentation must be praised. So for now, the New Orleans quartet can maintain their throne in the underground scene. But don't expect to move any higher any time soon.

Goatwhore's Blood for the Master is out now via Metal Blade.

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