Metal in general is not a genre for the meek. Thrash and speed metal, two of the myriad subgenres within the broader umbrella genre too enamored of subgenres, micro-genres, and general nit-picking, prove exhausting listening experiences as they race along at breakneck tempos, often on the very edge of control, careening along the edge of a blackened abyss. Frantic tempos and bleak, psychologically damaged lyrics are part and parcel when it comes to this kind of music and Goatwhore are clearly well-versed in both.
With their latest, the appropriately metal titled Constricting Rage of the Merciless, they’ve created a pummeling, brutally unrelenting slab of old-school speed and thrash metal, that, lacking the guitar pyrotechnics and fret board freak-outs of the genre’s original practitioners and some contemporary revivalists, focuses more on a viscerally oppressive approach that is absolutely crushing and thrilling in its sonic barbarity.
No one here is a virtuoso player with masterful control over their respective instrument a la the godfathers of the genre’s holy trinity. Throughout, the drums often feel as though they are a runaway train capable of speeding off the rails at any moment, no doubt providing ideal lyrical fodder with any and all resulting carnage. Instead of often distracting flash, the guitars employ a more workmanlike approach, speeding through chords and rudimentary riffs, virtually eschewing the customary breakneck solos associated with the genre altogether (only on “FBS” are there even hints of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman’s blitzkrieg approach to the instrument during a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it solo). Instead of racing through verses to get to the next solo, each track here affords ample room for alternately snarled and growled vocals that range from a strained yell to death metal’s requisite cookie-monster growl.
Throughout, tracks are beyond claustrophobic, driven far into the red and chocked full of driving guitars, aggressive double-bass drum pedal work and strangled, phlegmatic vocals that leave little room for anything else. It isn’t until the epic “Cold Earth Consumed In Dying Flesh” that any sort of respite from the onslaught is provided. And even that is fairly brief as the rather placid, funereal intro quickly gives way to chugging guitars and a throaty, inhuman growl that lasts far longer than one would think possible before descending into a fully unintelligible, throat-shredding grind. By song’s end, Goatwhore is speeding along at full throttle, dangerously careening on the edge of control with no signs of slowing down. It’s a harrowing, highly rewarding ride that, despite it’s length, never overstays its welcome thanks to its suite-like approach.
Featuring an insane tempo that feels as though it could spin completely out of control at any time, “Reanimated Sacrifice” finds Goatwhore channeling its inner Slayer, bludgeoning the listener with frantic picking and palm-muted guitar lines that would give any metal fan circa-1987 pause, a smile creeping across their long-haired face before the furiously rhythmic head-nodding took over. This is not music meant to be enjoyed as individual songs, but rather as part of a larger, more visceral listening experience that, despite its often redundant quality (individual track differentiation is damn near impossible) and oppressive nature, proves highly enjoyable, if ultimately exhausting clocking in at just under 40 minutes.
With barely any time to breath in between tracks, Constricting Rage Of The Merciless is a brutally bleak aural onslaught that will no doubt get metal heads pumping their fists and headbanging along with these pummeling anthems of chaos and despair. Clear heirs to the thrash metal throne, Goatwhore ably step up with this masterful slab of blacked metal and stake their claim as one of the best in the business circa-2014. One listen to the exhausting Constricting Rage of the Merciless would make theirs a hard case to refute.