Goatwhore – Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven Review

Goatwhore is an institution, and in 2022 celebrate their 25th anniversary, fittingly capping the occasion with their first album since 2017’s solid, if safe, Vengeful Ascension. During a recent binge-to-end-all-Goatwhore-binges, alongside several of my esteemed colleagues, I gained a renewed appreciation of what a consistently kick-arse and reliable outfit the NOLA legends have been over the years. Despite honing a well-worn thrash/black/death formula, each Goatwhore album possesses skillful tweaks, creating distinctive album-to-album character. Upon reflection, Vengeful Ascension came across a little stock standard, and when my Goatwhore cravings hit, it has scarcely appeared on the radar in the intervening years. With a five-year break from the studio, can Goatwhore channel their evil powers to unleash an album of the formidable quality of past classics, such as Blood for the Master or Carving out the Eyes of God?

Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven marks the band’s eighth album, kicking off in muted fashion with a foreboding introduction piece. While creating a sinister atmosphere, I would much rather a gatecrashing, bloodthirsty tune to detonate from the outset. Lead-off single, “Born of Satan’s Flesh” does the job and jams the album into gear proper. It finds Goatwhore sounding particularly raging and pissed off. Although holding no great surprises, the song’s thrashy energy, tight musicianship, and reliably strong vocal work from Ben Falgoust, aided by Sammy Duet’s demon summoned backing rasps, ensure a ripping good time. Goatwhore remain experts at creating aggressive, uncompromising extreme metal with an infectious and accessible streak, particularly highlighted on the album’s more penetrating cuts. Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven shifts between the playful melodicism and fun, punky vibes of Constricting Rage of the Merciless, and burly no-frills attitude of Vengeful Ascension, floating between the band’s most recent output in dependably solid fashion. It’s a deceptively diverse album with a mix of solidly entertaining, if unspectacular Goatwhore staples, and a handful of cut above tunes to elevate the experience.

Following a solid beginning, the arrival of the title track finds Goatwhore explore more interesting territory. The slow burner is anchored by melodic leads and creepy atmosphere, highlighting Goatwhore’s punchy dynamism at its explosive midpoint. Elsewhere, the barn-burning blackened thrash of “Victory is the Lightning of Destruction,” features a wicked, horn throwing chorus and sizzling, ’80s inspired thrash solo from Duet. “Voracious Blood Fixation” hails the power of the Goatwhore riff, as Falgoust leans into his somewhat underutilized deeper growls, and the death and thrashier tendencies lend the song a crunchy, heavier edge. “Nihil” relies on steroid speed-thrash delivery and jugular gouging aggression. However, perhaps the album’s best is saved for last. The colossal “And I was Delivered from the Wound of Perdition” trudges ominously across rugged death-doom terrain; mournful melodies, beastly growls and crushing riffs dominate, before a blackened firestorm takes hold, culminating in a tense, emotive climax. It’s an immense final act.

Performances are strong across the board. Duet solidified himself in cult folklore with his contributions to the essential, short-lived career of the legendary Acid Bath, however, I feel he’s an underappreciated guitarist. The dude is a riff beast, who deftly incorporates different styles and influences into an explosive package, where grim blackened tremolos, ominous melodies, and stout, seething riffs seamlessly intertwine, wrapping black, death, punk and thrash elements into a formidable whole. Perhaps most impressive is Duet’s underrated solos, which feature prominently across the album, adding unhinged, melodic counterpoints, and occasional nods to old school Slayer to the equation. Always a band to keep things lean, Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven is Goatwhore’s longest album, at 47 minutes. As a result, the album does suffer bloat, with the intro track and one or two of the less remarkable songs perhaps best left on the cutting room floor to allow for more efficient potency. A less squashed master would also allow for the music to pop a little more.

In summation, Goatwhore don’t make shit albums and Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven is no exception to the rule. Twenty-five years in the game and Goatwhore still sound vital, pissed and full of rage. It remains questionable whether Goatwhore have another truly decimating album left in them to match the might of their mid-career peak period, but Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven trends in the right direction and surpasses its solid predecessor, despite its relatively minor drawbacks.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed:  320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: goatwhore.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thegoat666
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2022

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