(BadWolf and friends attended a special performance by Goatwhore in Toledo on March 7. This is his review, plus his on-site interview of Ben Falgoust and Sammy Duet. All photos accompanying this post were taken for NCS by Nicholas Vechery.)
I’ve had the most rotten luck with local shows lately. That awesome Black Dahlia Murder/Skeletonwitch/Nile tour was supposed to come through my hometown, as was the Faceless/Dying Fetus/Goatwhore tour. Both of those were cancelled. In fairness, the Black Dahlia Murder decided to headline a huge local metalcore festival—the Jamboree—instead, but I’m no huge proponent of skinny-jean deathcore. Thank god (or satan or wotan or whatever) for Goatwhore, who decided to play Toledo anyway—for free.
Goatwhore picked the perfect venue: Toledo’s finest record store, Ramalama Records. I have a long history with the establishment; it’s fair to say I would not be a metalhead were it not for the owner, Rob, and his clerk, Nick. A story within a story:
I rode into the store on bicycle on a Saturday afternoon at the age of 15. I was dressed in black jeans and a Master of Puppets tee-shirt—Nick said I was the first cool-looking guy to enter the store all day, and as such if I bought a record the second would be half off. A sick deal, but I had no idea what to get, so I just pointed at my tee shirt and said “Stuff like this.”
Nick picked out Municipal Waste’s Hazardous Mutation record. “What’s that sound like?” Nick threw it on the stereo.
“The good old days,” he said. Twenty seconds into ‘Unleash the Bastards’, I said he had himself a deal.
For my second buy I took a gander at the new releases shelf, and a record cover caught my eye—some really great art of a ship being sunk by a whale. The band was called Mastodon. The album, obviously, was Leviathan. Nick let me listen to “Blood and Thunder”, and that was the end of normalcy in my life. $20 or so later, I was in metal for life.
Ramalama has served me well since then. When I buy a record in physical format, I go there. Rob also allows bands to throw free shows there on a semi-regular basis. Usually these are smaller bands on labels like Heavy Artillery—I was in a band that opened for Vindicator there, for example. Goatwhore is the most well-known band to play Ramalama in recent memory.
I sped over to Ramalama directly after work—two hours before the show was to take place. I figured I would meet my gal, QueenOfNoise, there and eat dinner at an Italian restaurant in the same strip, only to find the lights out, and the Ramalama crew discussing something intense with Goatwhore. Earlier, a woman had backed recklessly out of the parking lot—straight into the power line. Firemen cordoned off the alley where the transformer had fallen onto the pavement.
That meant one thing: generator show. The restaurant owners in the same complex were scrambling to set up diesel generators and keep their goods from spoiling. Nick assured me that Rob was on his way to do the same.
In the meantime, I waited for d00shc00gr, Nick Vechery, and QueenOfNoise outside. The sun set, and the air grew cold. A who’s-who of Toledo metalheads huddled together outside, smoking cigarettes. I shot the shit with Goatwhore’s merch man, Drew Gerrity—an NCS reader! Shortly before doors opened, Evan Linger and Nate Garnette of Skeletonwitch dropped in.
The crowd filed upstairs a little after seven. I was afraid the floor might collapse—the crowd stood shoulder-to-shoulder and stretched all the way down the stairs and onto Ramalama’s main floor. The collective body heat grew to sub-tropical levels quickly, and the room reeked of sweat and cheep beer. Nick had to perform some serious photographergymnastics to get from one potential angle to another. The only light came from two red effect lights on either side of the stage, rendering the entire affair a red-and-black blur.
Goatwhore played a full 45-minute set culled from every one of their records. The crowd went off hardest for tracks from Carving Out the Eyes of God and Blood For the Master—new single ‘When Steel and Bone Meet’ in particular got hair whipping around. Perhaps too much so—one tall guy shoved his way to right in front of me and sent his thick greasy hair flying back straight into my eyes (ouch) and mouth (yuck) about once every two seconds. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but quarters were especially tight and he was about the perfect height to get me right in the kisser. Every. Damn. Time. My only other complaint would be that people insisted on moshing during the set closer, ‘Apocalyptic Havok.’
Seriously guys? We were packed like sardines and inches away from a shitload of rare/imported/classic vinyl. You don’t mosh vinyl!
Not that I blame them. It was an intense night and Goatwhore destroy live. If you have not seen them before—do so. They play tight and conjure an impressive amount of noise considering they have one guitarist. Perhaps that’s the reason that they always sound clear—I’ve never had problems differentiating the guitar from the bass at a Goatwhore show.
Ben Falgoust gets my vote for MVP. He is unquestionably one of the finest frontmen in extreme metal today. He throws horns and invisible oranges with the best of us, and constantly stomps across stage or floor, seemingly fueled by fist-bumps and high-fives. He’s essentially Satan’s pep rally emcee.
After the show, I bought QueenOfNoise a Goatwhore shirt, then sat down with Falgoust and Goatwhore’s guitar player Sammy Duet for an interview where once again Falgoust proved himself to be the band’s PR point-man.
BW – How do you feel about the show with the generator?
Falgoust – I think it’s awesome, man. It turned out really fucking good.
BW- You think so?
Falgoust- You don’t? You sound a little hesitant!
BW-I thought it went very well, especially for a record store.
Duet – The odds were against us, but we pulled through.
BW- What’s the story with that?
Falgoust- Well after that show at the Omni with Dying Fetus got cancelled we put our feelers out for a little show. The kind people here at Ramalama Records got with us and said we could play a show upstairs.
We weren’t thirty minutes out when we got wind that power was out for the whole lot. Apparently some crazed woman drove though the pole holding up the power line.
Duet – You can see it laying on the ground there.
Falgoust- She drove straight through it. It broke at the base!
Duet – She had to have hit it pretty hard.
BW – The pole, or the bottle beforehand?
Falgoust- Maybe she got wind we were playing and was just out to get it.
Duet – “Those Goatwhore boys ain’t playin’ in This town!”
BW- The Jesus freaks. We’ve got some here.
Falgoust– Everyplace has them, man.
Well, everything turned out great. It seemed like everyone was happy with a really good turn out, especially so last minute. Nowadays with the internet, you can post online and get the word out quick.
BW-This seems like it’s not that common for Goatwhore; you’re touring the nation now. How often do you play a basement or a record store?
Falgoust-We don’t do it very often but we still do it now and then. We played at our friend’s tattoo shop, we played a place way smaller than this.
BW-Do you like these small spaces? The last time I saw you in Toledo it was at Headliner’s, which is kind of open.
Falgoust- It is pretty open. No matter what, I like places where it’s tighter and the fans are right there so we can feed off each other. When we play these big places with a barricade you lose that connection and it loses the fun in a sense. There is something more about shows like this. I think at some points bigger bands realize that selling out a small venue is better than playing a big venue and only filling it halfway.
We saw Judas Priest on their Epitaph tour, at the Hard Rock Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, and that room is way smaller than anything Judas Priest usually plays in, but the show was amazing and the band had such a fabulous time doing it, too. When the fans are right there, there is something that is gained. You feed off the energy.
BW- This is the first you’ve been near here, but you started touring behind the new album before it came out.
Falgoust- We aren’t even touring as much as we usually do. This time around we wanted to be way more solid about touring and not just getting on every goddamn thing. We’re focusing on getting out of the US a little more—nothing against the US, but we’ve toured it so much. Oversaturating the market can definitely happen. Some of these places we’ve been five times in the last year. You need to leave people wanting it. I don’t want to see a band that much—I mean, unless it’s Priest. I’d see them 5 times in a year.
Duet– Yeah! I’d see Judas Priest five nights in a row.
Falgoust- So there’s only a handful of bands you would want to go see. I’m not downgrading our band, but we’ve got a fair bit of work to get on the level of Judas Priest.
BW- Do you burn out on tour? How long does it take before you say “I want NOLA.”
Falgoust– Year and a half.
Duet- Longer. At least.
Duet- We’ve been doing it for so long that we’re used to it. You get to that point where you miss your pillows, your dog and your cat, but at the end of the day this is what we love doing. It gets miserable sometimes, but when you have a couple beers and play a good show it makes up for that.
Falgoust– It fills the void and gets you through to the next show. And I’ve got to say all the shows we’ve been doing have been turning out pretty well. When we look how things are going for us with his new record and this new tour, things have been really stepping up. The next thing is Europe. We’ve only been to Europe a few times and we have a lot of work to do there. It will be cool to see what unfolds there.
BW- How difficult is it for a band from the States to enter the EU?
Falgoust- It’s probably easier than an EU band getting over here.
Duet- Except England.
Falgoust- England! They’re pretty strict and you’ve got to have your paperwork sorted out. The US is strict as well. For example, we were just out with Hate Eternal, and Cerebral Bore was going to open and their visas didn’t get processed in time. It is difficult to sort out over here, but in Europe most places just glanced at our visas and told us to walk through. England, no. You need all your stuff sorted out or they will chop you off right there.
BW- What do you think about being American and playing black metal?
Duet- We’re more BM influenced than being that kind of a band.
Falgoust- We mix that in with everything else. We love death metal. We really love classic metal like Motorhead and Judas Priest. I think we’re more inspired by the older black metal bands like Venom and Celtic Frost, as opposed to the Norwegian attack. There’s a lot we appreciate there, but it kind of sucks, because if you say black metal people only think of that.
Duet- People expect us to sound like that and we don’t.
Falgoust- We do use some elements of that, but we use completely different things as well. Systems lock everything into a grid, and when you do that, there might be a kid that doesn’t like black metal but he-or-she would like what we do and ignore it anyway because of that label. You need to listen to it first. Listen to the music, not the label. Determine for yourself.
BW- Well, what do you think of the people who put on the labels? How do blogs treat Goatwhore, do you think?
Falgoust- The thing is, everyone’s aspect and approach is so different. Everyone. For example, me and you. [he looks at Sammy]
BW- You look so frustrated right now.
Duet- I just think it’s funny.
Falgoust- I was talking to him about the song “In Deathless Tradition.” I said it sounds like old Paradise Lost and he told me it reminds him of Bethlehem. Two totally different bands. We have two different approaches, so when you read things you can see that one person is more focused on one style and they pick that out of the band. One guy says we sound like Immortal, the other guy says Behemoth. But when I read reviews I read all of them, so I get the roundabout picture of what I’m getting. So if you’re going to read one review, read all of them. Get a roundaobut picture of all the different variations.
[at this point, Rob walks up and hands Sammy a wrapped-up record]
BW- What’d you get?
Duet- Judas Priest – British Steel on vinyl.
BW- Nice! What’s the last record you bought.
Falgoust- The last thing I got was on iTunes, it was called The Juggs.
BW- You can get porn on iTunes now?
Falgoust- No, they sound like The Black Keys but with a thicker tone. I like some of the older Black Keys stuff and so someone introduced me to The Juggs and I liked it. It’s just an EP, there’s something thick and rock about it. I don’t really buy CD’s anymore. Its easier and you make up a lot of space. I love the artwork and everything, but if I really love the artwork I’ll get it all. Like, Watain – Lawless Darkness. I bought the CD, the vinyl, and the download because I like how everything was packaged. I like a quality layout and thought-out products. It’s not the same on iTunes when they PDF the layout.
Duet- I just got Ruins of Beverast – Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite, imported from Germany.