Vengeful Ascension by Goatwhore

Release date: June 23, 2017
Label: Metal Blade Records

With their seventh studio album Vengeful Ascension Goatwhore wanted to make an album that sounded live, with a raw, organic feel. New producer Jarrett Pritchard, the man brought in to achieve this, is the band’s longtime soundman and was picked as someone who knows fully what the band sound like “out of the PA”. From their earlier days forging death/back metal in their own image, this release sounds distinctly more thrashy and less death metal to me, with more than a nod to the classic thrash of yore, including suitably rasping vocals.

Opener ‘Forsaken’ to me at first seemed an odd choice for starting the album. It’s more measured than the later faster and more thrashy efforts, less in your face, without the roar-factor. But after repeated listens it worms its way into your skull, especially the subtle mid-track melody that takes a few listens to really notice.

The idea of being at a Goatwhore live show hits home with the next track, ‘Under the Flesh, Into the Soul’. The opener is just a warm up, the band getting limbered up. ‘Under the Flesh…’ is a smack between the eyes, a heads-down thrash attack that shows what the band can do. Live, this would be incredible. The pummelling drums and buzz-saw guitar work together to create a thrilling assault that harks back to mid-80s thrash (think Exodus moshing with Kreator), but with a 2017 twist.

There’s a nod to all sorts of influences here: the faster more adrenaline-fueled guitar work that brings to mind earlier thrash with its riffs and pacing, plus the odd bit of trad HM soloing, is melded deftly with modern black and death metal sounds in terms of the styling and vocals. The drumming is woven skilfully into the sound – sometimes leading from the front, as in the more driving ‘Under the Flesh…’ and ‘Mankind Will Have No Mercy’, and other times providing a backdrop to the riffing, as in the distinctly blackened ‘Abandon Indoctrination’.

The pacing is conducted like a live show, with faster tracks such as the Slayeresque ‘Chaos Arcane’ interspersed with heavier, mid-tempo material, as with title track ‘Vengeful Ascension’. I loved fifth track ‘Where the Sun is Silent’, which gives respite to the chaos of the virtual moshpit (this is the one where you catch your breath and just bang your head). A let-up on the fast riffing, this slow, menacing number has a subtle riff that underlies the grim vocal, with the despair that the title implies being fully felt.

‘Drowned in Grim Rebirth’ gives a more modern feel, almost Cradle of Filth with it its rollicking doomy rumble and guttural “oooggh” from frontman Ben Falgoust. ‘Abandon Indoctrination’ has a modern black metal sound that starts with the first despairing howl and continues with the blast beats of the drums and the driving tremelloed guitars.

With the mix of influences heard on this record it would be easy for it to be a bit metal-by-numbers: the thrash track, the black metal track, the slow doomy one, etc. Not a bit of it – what this album sounds is cohesive and skilfully blended. With the vocal themes of alienation and defiance, using the fall of Lucifer as a metaphor for those who feel downtrodden in our uncertain times, Goatwhore have a produced a thoroughly modern metal album influenced by decades of heavy music from all genres. It’s all combined to create a forward-looking opus that builds on the past and uses it to make something good.

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