The last twenty years have been quite an eventful ride for guitarist Sammy Duet. When his first (proper) band, legendary Louisiana swamp monsters Acid Bath, split up due to the untimely death of bassist Audie Pitre, he began work on a new project – Goatwhore.
Taking a completely different route to his old bandmate, vocalist Dax Riggs, who had all but left the grinding intensity of Acid Bath behind him in favour of a stripped-down (but still suitably dark) rock sound with Agents of Oblivion, and Deadboy and the Elephantmen before going on to pursue a solo career, Duet took his time with his new venture, even joining the ranks of fellow New Orleanians Crowbar and recording three albums with them.
With the release of their 2000 debut, The Eclipse of Ages Into Black (Rotten Records), Duet’s Blackened Death Metal act – distinctly different to the southern-tinged sludge of most other Louisianian bands – were finally up and running, and about to undergo all the trials and tribulations that fate could throw at them. Aside from having to cope with all the usual touring and personnel problems most acts encounter, vocalist Ben Falgoust (Soylent Green) was left nearly paralyzed after a tour bus accident in 2003, and then two years later the band had to escape the devastating flood waters of Hurricane Katrina.
Rising above adversity, Goatwhore have grown with each record, and now with the release of their seventh studio album Vengeful Ascension (Metal Blade), have taken another brave step forward. Having recorded their four previous albums with respected producer Erik Rutan, this time the band chose to work alongside their long-time sound engineer Jarrett Pritchard, with the mixing process handled by Chris Common (Tribulation, Pelican) and mastering duties managed by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More).
Subtlety has never been one of Goatwhore’s priorities, and new working methodology or not, that clearly hasn’t changed now. Their frenzied speed and aggression is tempered with slower, but no less effective, atmospheric passages, the riffs are razor sharp, the rhythm section of Zack Simmons (Drums) and James Harvey (Bass) is an impressive and powerful unit, and the vocals are first rate as Falgoust roars and spits out each lyric with venomous clarity.
Revolving around the idea of Lucifer as an anti-hero, an emancipator – a positive force rather than a stereotypical demonic caricature – Vengeful Ascension takes its thematic cues from John Milton‘s Paradise Lost as opening double whammy of ‘Forsaken’ and ‘Under The flesh, Into The soul’ begin their assault. ‘Where The Sun is Silent’ and the groove-soaked title track stalk the listener with menace, both possessing smooth, blues-inflected guitar solos. The H.P. Lovecraft influence of ‘Chaos Arcane’ lives up to its name, while ‘Drowned in Grim Rebirth’, the Bolt Thrower-isms of ‘Mankind Will Have No Mercy’, and closer ‘Those Who Denied God’s Will’ all do their very best to pummel you into willing submission.