GOATWHORE some five or six years ago seemed to be stuck in a rut, they're blackened metal somewhat re-treading their own sound a little too much. However, on 2014's 'Constricting The Rage of the Merciless' there was more than a hint they were shaking themselves up.
Now, with 'Vengeful Ascension' the NOLA men have matured their sound, taken a risk and produced a finely balanced album full of musical and lyrical layers.
Whether it was the decision to record reel-to-reel, use a different producer, or just a band sensing it was time to shake things up a bit matters not because Goatwhore have unleashed their finest to date.
More nuanced, matching their instinct to riff in a BM style, but with subtle notes - like a fine well rounded red wine, Vengeful Ascension is a triumph.
Even the tribal tom tom runs that open the album on 'Forsaken' are the drumbeat announcing the arrival of a band wanting and needing to demonstrate that they are an extreme metal force to be reckoned with.
The atonality of the playing is counter-balanced with further incorporation of more classic metal progressions and melodies is further enhanced throughout as exemplified on 'Under the Flesh and Into The Soul' opening riffs and pacey passages.
Pace is an issue in terms of album's arrangement many bands struggle with, but Goatwhore pull it off magnificently halfway through with the slow menace of 'Where The Sun Is Silent' - true atmospheric metal...
Sammy Duet's workouts are impressive throughout, often displaying more deft touches, while L.Ben Falgoust's vocals have refreshing variety.
It is also an album that touches on many themes, from the Luciferean metaphor on the title track for the struggles to achieve success through to the imminent human self-destruction on 'Mankind Will Have No Mercy'.
'Chaos Arcane' rage and pace is sheer delight, apparently based on an HP Lovecraft story, reeks of all humanity's deep fears and Duet pummels along with Simmons and Harvey propelling the track along at breakneck speed, punctuating a slowed down section with finely balanced fills an runs.
This standout track showcases the evolution of Goatwhore - their ability to blend black metal, thrash, elements of death and tradition metal is now more clearly to be seen. Don't, however, think of this as some sort of crossover.
Instead regard this as a band recording an album not afraid to show off their influences without any slavish doffs of the cap, but producing their own vision.
And, it is a darkly wondrous vision.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Vengeful Ascension is out now on Metal Blade