So my son arrived home with food and I only just heard him call because I had the new Goatwhore album on loud. A new Goatwhore album, he commented, perking up, because he's been a fan ever since I took him to see them back in 2006, supporting both Venom and Celtic Frost.Then he said, "I hope it's better than Vengeful Ascension." Well, I can't say if it is or not because I haven't heard it, but what I read about it now suggests that it was a bit of a departure for them, slowing down and changing producer. Die hard fans seem to have liked it, but not as much as they wanted, criticising the songwriting and production.
That producer, Jarrett Pritchard, is back and his work here, alongside Kurt Ballou, does the job for me. Not all songs pop equally, but this certainly didn't feel like a slow and uncharacteristic album. In fact, once we get past the pointless vaguely demonic intro which we've heard a thousand times before, Goatwhore hit us hard with the fast and uncompromising Born of Satan's Flesh. They carry as much of a punch now as they've ever done, at least to my ears. Sammy Duet's guitars are a real highlight, as always; the drums blister, courtesy of new fish Robert Coleman; and the vocals are an enticing mix of dark and rich death growl and bleaker, more acidic one that's ably intonated, thus with a level of theatricality, if not so much as Dani Filth.
The Bestowal of Abomination kicks in just as immediately and just as emphatically and it remains at that level for the most part, even though there are slightly slower sections that never lost my interest. Other songs play up the speed factor too, as Goatwhore have always had roots in thrash metal, even if they're generally listed only as black/death nowadays. There's a solid thrash slam to Death from Above, which is older school underneath the hood but with all those extreme modern layers firmly still in place where the world can see them.
Some songs do calm down a little, starting with the title track, but I'm only talking about the pace, because that one's just as lively and intense as its faster predecessors. Maybe there's a slowdown late in the album, because Weight of a Soulless Heart is definitely slower and so is the closer, And I Was Delivered from the Wound of Perdition, which runs well over a minute longer than everything else, so I presume they were going for a more epic feel. These aren't my favourites, though, as I'm fondest of Goatwhore when they're in my face. I'd go with Nihil, in between those two, every time.
After that opening pair and Nihil, I'd highlight a set of tracks at the heart of the album because the guitars get quite the workout on them. That set would start with Death from Above, with its bludgeoning Venom style guitar, and continue through Ruinous Liturgy, with another barrelling riff that I could listen to all day, to Victory is the Lightning of Destruction and Voracious Blood Fixation, with even simpler but still thoroughly effective riffs.
It's not just the riffs either, though it's especially the riffs; it's the solos as well. While I never have complaints about Ben Falgoust's vocals, what makes me happy here and on any Goatwhore album, beyond the band's unsurpassed name, is Sammy Duet's guitarwork. I always want more of it than I get, but I always love what I do get. The best of what I get this time seems to be right at the heart of the album to wrap up the first side and get down to business on the second.
I think I need to borrow Vengeful Ascension from my son to see what he's talking about, but I have a feeling he's going to see this one as a return to form. Well, most of it. There is lesser material on offer but even the filler songs have good riffs. Let's just ditch the demonic intro next time, folks? I would say that had got old a decade before you formed Goatwhore and I see that you're celebrating your 25th anniversary this year.