Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Goatwhore's Blood for the Master lashes out with unrelenting intensity

I don't know about you, but when I'm searching for new metal bands I seek someone who pays tribute to the old guard and demonstrates a mastery of the fundamentals. Many bands sabotage themselves by trying to be too experimental, or push themselves too far out of their comfort zone.

New Orleans blackened/thrash/death quartet Goatwhore doesn't try to push the envelope, and they certainly aren't flashy. But oftentimes that's the best formula. With their fifth LP, Blood for the Master, Goatwhore are solidifying their status as arbiters of the unholy. Their approach seems simple and straightforward at first, but closer inspection reveals their approach to be an amalgamation of several styles.

The opener, "Collapse in Eternal Worth," kicks off with an intense blast of fiery black metal riffing which combines with the spitfire vocal snarl of Louis B. Falgoust II and an all-out aural drum assault. The work of guitarist Sammy Duet cannot be understated. There are plenty of great grooving, headbanging riffs, there are heavy crunching riffs, and certainly there is your black metal staccato.

The guitar solos, however, are a bit of an oddity. The playing is solid, but the solos seem to be buried in the mix, as the rhythm guitar and drums overpower them a bit. Composition-wise, they are very methodical and much slower paced. They weave and wind their way to their crux, which stands in sharp contrast to the aggressive and straight ahead nature of the rest of the music.

Falgoust also provides the band with a great deal of diversity. Many songs on Blood for the Master are marked by his unmistakable raspy shrieks. But he also utilizes a much deeper, throatier growl, which is deployed to brutal effect. He also unleashes some special effects from time to time. There are a couple of moments on "An End to Nothing" and "In Deathless Tradition," he pulls off a lower pitched rasp with a slightly different cadence from what he usually does. It's like a spoken word snarl, and the effect is totally wicked.

Midway through "Beyond the Spell of Discontent" you'll also hear him revert to a super high pitched snarl that hits at the very top of his register. This song very well may feature his most viscous performance of the album.

The lyrics on Blood for the Master are just as diabolical and blasphemous as anything the band has put forth. No moment is wasted in attacking the pillars of religion and clamoring for more souls to quench Hell's fire. Goatwhore doesn't just attack the cross; it tears it down, stomps on it, and aims to leave you with no hope for retribution. On "In Deathless Tradition," Falgoust sings:

"Praise the promised words that seem timeless, stepping off a precipice into disaster/
Failed dispute of this longing regret, another shallow attempt of life after death."

Zack Simmons' drum work is not overly technical or complex. He has some nice fills from time to time, but for the most part his kit is used to channel the aggressive energy that is a key part of the band's sound. I liken his work to that of 80s thrash drummers who prized speed and endurance over technique.

As for highlights? Well, the opening riff on "In Deathless Tradition" is among the best on the album, and that song has steadily been working its way up my list of favorites. "Embodiment of this Bitter Chaos" kicks off with a winding guitar lead backed by an acoustic riff, which sounds like something dredged out of the darkest depths of Dimebag Darrell's archives. And in terms of full-blown onslaught, it's hard to go wrong with "Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred World."

I take a few points off because the music begins to sound a bit samey after awhile. However, if you respect the no frills, unrelenting nature of bands like Pantera and Celtic Frost, or lament that Lamb of God has gone a bit too mainstream for your tastes, then Goatwhore's Blood for the Master may well provide you with the perfect sacrifice.

Score: 84/100

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