Holy shite, this is a feisty and fiery one! One of the most successful “project” bands in recent memory, Goatwhore has come roaring back, filled with piss, bile and cayenne peppers on album five, Blood for the Master. This is nasty, blackened death/thrash from the most stagnant bayou of the Big Easy and it’s the musical equivalent of a gator attack. Featuring former members of Crowbar, Acid Bath and Nachtmystium, Goatwhore is professional, single-minded and out to punish mankind. Although they started as an American take on Norwegian black metal like Darkthrone, they’ve since settled into life as a drooling, chomping, black/death/thrash beast. While their past few albums have been a bit samey at times, they were always fun in a berserk, foaming at the mouth kinda way. Blood for the Master continues in the same direction as 2009’s Carving Out the Eyes of God but feels a bit more intense and well thought out. It hits like a nuclear howitzer from Hades with thirty-eight minutes of face melting ugliness and malevolent swagger.There are lots of nods to the classic Bay Area thrash sound, some black n’ roll, classic death riffing and ice-cold, hyper-kinetic trem-abuse. What makes this so entertaining is the odd biker rock vibe Goatwhore manages to impart to the mach-speed chaos. Its hard to explain, but this sounds like black/death as done by a southern rock lovin, greasy biker gang and it works. While this ends up more of a thrash album than a black or death metal opus, it retains enough of an icy black heart to keep most frowners frowning happily (is that possible?). While it doesn’t differ much from what Skeletonwitch has done on the past few albums, its harder, meaner and way more convincing.
Of the ten tracks, nine blaze away with manic fury and seething hostility. “Collapse of Eternal Worth” gets the spiked ball rolling with an almost punk rock take on black metal that reminds me of the first Corrosion of Conformity album but with way more hate. The riffs are urgent and some are quite powerful. The vocals lurch from guttural death croaks to blackened rasps. “When Steel Meets Bone” is really a Bay Area thrash number with hints of vintage Exciter in the riffing and tempo. “An End to Nothing” borrows extensively from the Great Book of Slayer, including the frenzied, whammy-intensive solos.
The most “black” of the tracks is the epic and evil “Judgment of the Bleeding Crown,” which sounds like top-notch Belphegor. The riffing locks in perfectly with the rolling drums and it sounds like an unstoppable juggernaut of doom. Likewise, “Beyond the Spell of Discontent” trots out some nicely frigid trem leads before settling into a straight thrash style. Only “In Deathless Tradition” stumbles and feels underwhelming with a more mid-pace grinding attack (it has a nifty solo).
Blood for the Master lives or dies by the strength of the axe mastery of Sammy Duet and fortunately, he’s up to the challenge. There are a lot of crisp, quality riffs here, of the black, death and thrash variety. His solos are also impressive and span several styles and approaches (my favorite coming at 2:15 during “Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred Word”). Ben Falgoust’s vocals are diverse and mostly well done. Though he uses less of his pure black rasp this time, his death croaks are good and his screams sound genuinely painful (though he sounded better on earlier albums). I was very impressed with the drumming of Zack Simmons. The man can bash and crash and he really adds a lot of the fun to the mix.
Speaking of mix, the production by Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) is a big factor in the success of Blood for the Master. The drum sound is huge and organic and the guitars sound pulverizing and unstoppable. This isn’t a trembly, tinny low-fi product by any means. Its got a huge low-end rumble and will shake you out of your socks with a wall of nasty sound.
Goatwhore isn’t re-writing any books on metal or doing anything unique, but their frantic, blitzkrieg approach to black/death is a winning recipe with loads of cajun awesome sauce. This is an blast of pure metal insanity and manages to be both extreme and memorable. Like having a rabid pitbull in your pants; its gonna get you moving and shaking. Get on the goat and ride…to glory!!