PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Goatwhore: Vengeful Ascension

Extreme metal overlords Goatwhore celebrate 20 years of with their most mature outing to date.


Vengeful Ascension

Label: Metal Blade
US Release Date: 2017-06-23
UK Release Date: 2017-06-23

Goatwhore, the thrashing metal quartet from New Orleans, have fashioned their style beyond the fuzzed out sludge championed by fellow Cajuns like Eyehategod and Crowbar. With tempos and riffs closer to extreme metal and lyrical themes not far removed from black metal, they represent an amalgamation of aggressive subgenres that pierces as much as it gnaws. Vengeful Ascension, their seventh full-length album, arrives as the band marks their 20th anniversary of down-tuned riffs, double kicks, and devil-inspired imagery. Rather than phone in another record as a means to get back on the road, Goatwhore has produced an album more textured and nuanced than the typical metal record.

Tribal drums foreshadow the buzzsaw guitar on opening track “Forsaken". Louis B. Falgoust’s raspy screams about Lucifer above Zack Simmons’ blast beats solidify their blackened influence while guitarist Sammy Duet’s bleeding arpeggiated chords add momentary new dimensions. Whether overt or subtle, Goatwhore has little regard for keeping the various stands and styles of metal separated by their sound. Consider the Kerry King inspired guitar solo amidst the hardcore vibe in “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul". Likewise, the bluesy fills amidst the doom-laden hex of “Where the Sun is Silent” make the track too moody and complex to be a simple headbanger.

The band has developed a precision that undoubtedly served them well during the recording sessions. Vengeful Ascension was recorded on reel-to-reel tape, an analog method noted for its warmth and authenticity but occasionally cursed for its difficulty and technical demands on the performers. Whereas digital can tighten up any band into a well-oiled machine with a few key clicks, analog requires a group, especially one as manic as Goatwhore, to be completely locked into one another, as takes can be mercilessly limited. This knowledge makes the pinpoint trashing accuracy of “Chaos Arcane” all the more impressive knowing the risks of the medium. Likewise, “Abandon Indoctrination” with its blacked thrashing, is precise when it needs to be and loose when it serves the song best, demonstrating an act at the top of their game.

While not strictly a concept album, the theme of Ascension focuses on Lucifer and the notion of rising above struggles and tribulations. The text is inherently dark and sinister -- it’s about Lucifer, after all. Still, one can abstract messages of redemption from Falgoust’s words, in particular during the narrative progression of “Where the Sun Is Silent". With his raspy vocal delivery Falgoust comes off as a narrator, a refreshing contrast to the (with all due Chris Barnes loving respect) incomprehensible guttural ravages traditionally championed by extreme metal.

The filtered vocals and acoustic guitars on the title track give it the most textured vibe of the record. Duet balances straightforward power chords with etherial single note lines, a decidedly more complex affair than a typical by the books mid-tempo chugathon. His solo is notably melodic and -- dare I say -- catchy, yet it doesn’t betray the band’s staunchly anti-commercial style. It’s revealing that Goatwhore named their album after this tune, the most layered and sonically complex one on the recording. It’s not entirely false to read into this as the group accepting the slightly experimental tendencies of a metal band still evolving 20 years into their career.

“Those Who Denied God’s Will", the album’s closer, begins with a black metal onslaught raining fire down from the sky before moving into more epic and oddly beautiful moments. The track as a whole isn’t too removed from the rest of the album, but it’s sudden moments like the Duet’s tremolo-picked lines doubling the chords or his undeniably melodic solo that reveal a band more concerned with building upon a metal foundation rather than retreading ideas.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.