Album Review: Goatwhore - "Blood for the Master"

I really thought I would hate this album. Goatwhore had done next to nothing for me along the entirety of their career, aside from occupying the conversational space where I would say to people, "well, if you can get by their name...they're not the worst band ever." Hardly gleaming praise.

"Blood for the Master," Goatwhore's new album releasing on Metal Blade Records, shows much more promise that the band has on any previous recording. There were a number of quotes from the musicians in pre-release press giving the expected, blase`, worthy-of-a-sports-press-conference mantras about wanting to return to metal's roots and defy the labels of genre, snore......

But! Goatwhore has, for a few moments at least, managed to actually live up to that sickly pale pastiche by providing listeners with music that is a sort of ‘black metal for the masses.’ Broken up into bite-size three minute morsels, Goatwhore shows the capacity to combine blast beats with chuggy, layered guitars and vocals that are screamed but not beyond comprehension. The album’s first three song salvo, from the thudding of “Collapse in Eternal Worth” to the cradle of old-school riffs on “Parasitic Scriptures of the Sacred World,” puts these abilities on display in a way that makes Goatwhore sound surprisingly like a re-imagining of Overkill for the new millennium.

Let’s be clear though, the brand of black metal that Goatwhore is morphing and incorporating features a decidedly European bent, which means that the band is still miles away from their origins in association with Crowbar. Despite their imaginative, virtuoso take on the genre, there is no plodding death, no shambling doom. Every song is a hard charging, full-speed-ahead hybrid thrash fest.

Unfortunately, the promise showcased at the head of “Blood for the Master” doesn’t last for the entire effort. As the band forges on, their more characteristically black-metal romps (“In Deathless Tradition”) don’t feel nearly as dynamic in the face of the previous songs’ blistering guitar and frenzied attitude.

As the album carries along, the middle third feels increasingly disjointed and dysfunctional. Louis Falgoust’s vocals feel more pressed and artificial, almost like he’s forcing himself into a less comfortable idiom. As a result, the scaled back riffing and the hollow vocal performance become repetitive in a hurry.

Still, give some points to Goatwhore and their new album for persistence. The album’s last act gives rise to some of its best, most sinister creations. Falgoust and the songwriters talked at length in the releases about how they wanted to make sure that Goatwhore was producing songs that were enjoyable to play, and could be replicated live to great effect. To that end, they whipped up “Death to the Architects of Heaven,” a non-stop verse-chorus-verse buzzfest with a guitar tone that could have been lifted straight from Metallica’s iconic single “Whiplash.”

Not to be outdone (and certainly not to be outdone by themselves,) Goatwhore paired that song with “An End to Nothing,” which is more or less the same song as “Death to the…” but faster. Despite the repetition, “An End to Nothing” is the better song, and perhaps the best the album has to offer. The crushing, inescapable crunchiness of the guitars is like being overtaken by a wave composed of a single, unceasing sound.

Points to Goatwhore, and respect to “Blood for the Master.” It’s hardly perfect (I can’t emphasize that enough,) but it has some truly shining moments that outpace the poor sections of the album. Be advised that if you’re picking this up, you might be paying full price for half a record. Still, Sammy Duet’s wandering, fitful and merciless guitar rampages are worth a listen.

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