(Here’s DGR‘s extensive review of the new album by Goatwhore, out now on Metal Blade Records.)
There was a block of time during the decade that was the 2010s when it seemed like Goatwhore were unstoppable and ever-present. They released consistently good-to-great albums like clockwork and few bands out there embodied the concept of “professional homeless person” quite like this hard-touring group. It seemed like they were always on the road and ready to answer the call if there was a show that needed its ass saved from a last-minute cancellation. Hell, there were times when the band wouldn’t even be part of an event yet would somehow pop up within the area because what the hell else were Goatwhore going to do with their free time? Not play live?
That’s why sitting down and gazing over the numbers gap between the group’s 2017 Vengeful Ascension and their latest salvo in early October, Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven, and seeing the five-year mark just looks wild, especially for a band whose previous longest gap between releases was at best on the long side of three. One could only expect that we’d see a release from Goatwhore a whole hell of a lot sooner had we not had to effectively put the world on pause due to a worldwide plague, because otherwise the Goatwhore camp probably would have been out on the road and writing just as hard as they normally do.
Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven is so archetypically Goatwhore that you wouldn’t even notice the time that passed between the disc prior to it and this one. It slots right in with where the band have been comfortably planted since 2012’s Blood For The Master after having spent four albums before that slowly hewing their sound to down to as razor-sharp a bone as they could possibly make it.
Since then, the group have been a surgical strike of sludge and thrash-tinged black metal built upon a foundation of arena-rock-worthy riffs, endless circle pits, and song titles that when they’re not as bluntly-stupid as “FBS” are wordy and visually stimulating enough that sometimes you wonder if Ben Falghoust missed his calling as a much-vaunted poet somewhere along the way.
In fact the largest change to the overall Goatwhore sound is likely the discovery of a blues-rock guitar part working its way into the mix a la “Baring Teeth For Revolt”, with just enough of a hook to keep you latched on ’til the eventual inevitability of drummer Zack Simmons spending the next thirty or so seconds blasting everything to bits. Because if there is one thing that you can almost set your watch by when it comes to Goatwhore, it is the segment of a song wherein there is a real solid inhuman yell and a following section where Goatwhore rail on their instruments, reminding you why they have many-a-press photo surrounded by smoke and spikes galore.
It’s an accomplishment and a testament to the level of consistency from the band though, that they can exist as equal part meme and cultural touchstone within the heavy metal music community. Their name has never ceased to cause an upturned eyebrow from the more “normie” among potential fans, yet just the same, were you never to mention their name (much like telling newcomers to listen to Rotting Christ without mentioning their name) you’d have people rocking out just the same.
Goatwhore don’t deal in subtlety. They’ve taken a liking to big riffs, big sections, and room-filling music matched equally in terms of heaviness. Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven continues that dance just as well as the band have done before. Some groups would spend five years pent up and return with music so overwhelmingly bombastic or so densely packed that it would seem like every idea that ever occurred to the group had somehow found its way into a new release, but Goatwhore just laugh it off and continue with what they’re best known for, as relentless as ever and still somehow so surgically written that it seems like the band itself is peopled by a flurry of knives made sentient.
“Born Of Satan’s Flesh” and the titular “Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven” were great choices to be lead-off releases for this album. “Born Of Satan’s Flesh” does the excellent work of bringing people into this release – given its positioning as the second song within the tracklisting – and also being the one to kick things off. While there’s definitely been ink spilled over the group’s usage of intro songs over the years, the build of “Invocation 3” before it spills into “Born Of Satan’s Flesh” is just short enough that when the opening volley of the song hits, you’re almost already settled into the warmth of the hellfire that Goatwhore put out.
“Born Of Satan’s Flesh” is also one of the longer songs on Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven, clearing a little over four minutes in an album that keeps its assaults tightly packed within the three-to-four-minute range – save for its end-of-the-world closer “And I was Delivered From The Wound Of Perdition”, which clears six easily, going for equal parts ferocity and atmosphere. That second part being the big development for this release; Goatwhore spend a good chunk of their cachet this time working equally apocalyptic and atmospheric riffs into the overall mix.
It may never occur to you just how much Goatwhore are a guitar-driven band until they hit you across the face with it in a song like the aforementioned title track, with the main driver being the haunting central melody that drags things along even when the band behind it is hammering everything into a fine paste. Even within the songs where it seems like Goatwhore are going to play things pretty close to the chest, there’s just enough surprise to keep things exciting.
It was mentioned before but Goatwhore do have quite a bit of their DNA dedicated to creating a seemingly endless circle-pit. If a song like “Ruinous Liturgy” were to pop up live, it would be a surprise if the track shorts weren’t broken out and many a mile run while the band gallop along. Placing it right in the center of an album that does the five-different-experiences routine thing leading up to it is a surprise in its own way. You’re gliding through Goatwhore‘s music as they’re bouncing off the walls and you suddenly arrive at the most straightforward song the band have in their repretoire this time around.
There’s suitable challengers for that title throughout the new album but the one that goes for the throat is the near-the-end closer and simply-titled “Nihil”, which does much the same act as “Ruinous Liturgy”: Tag-team vocal assault, relentless guitar riffing, and a rhythm section that is piston-fired with the accuracy of a machine. Having a song like that pop up every three-or-four tracks is a good choice on a disc like this. In addition, who isn’t a sucker for a good start/stop cymbal catch like the band do at about a minute-twenty into the song before tearing into a guitar solo?
Goatwhore reviews can feel a little like exorcising a demon out of your system. They’re a group who’ve long honed themselves into the rare formula where even when they’re at their most bog-standard, they can get something moving within you by being completely ferocious. They’re good for a quick adrenaline rush and the group’s median throughline is something many a band would kill for. You can spot a Goatwhore song anywhere these days because they have a trademark sound, and while Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven has them deviating into Necrophobic and Dark Funeral territory at times, they slam just as many arena-rock galloping riffs into it that you can’t help but imagine that there’s quite a bit of Maiden/Judas Priest bass-rumbling working its way into the band’s influences.
If nothing else the Goatwhore crew seem like students and archivists of music. Traveling through their discography, you can notice how the group draw and pluck from many a different genre-tree over the years to add to the cauldron that is their sound, always on the fringes while the core remains fairly untouched.
Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven is a strong-as-hell Goatwhore album, and as mentioned before, it slides in just as nicely alongside its earlier brethren as the albums before it have. It’s another great collection of circle pits, mosh sections, maddening guitar solos, and inhuman yells to add to the Goatwhore collection of all those things they had built before.