Album: Vengeful Ascension
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: June 23, 2017
02. Under the Flesh, Into the Soul
03. Vengeful Ascension
04. Chaos Arcane
05. Where the Sun Is Silent
06. Drowned in Grim Rebirth
07. Abandon Indoctrination
08. Mankind Will Have No Mercy
09. Decayed Omen Reborn
10. Those Who Denied God’s Will
Louis B. Falgoust II: Vocals
Sammy Duet: Guitars, Vocals
Zack Simmons: Drums
James Harvey: Bass
“We wanted it raw. We wanted it organic. We wanted it to sound the way we do in the live setting,” relays Goatwhore frontman Ben Falgoust of the band’s latest output, Vengeful Ascension. Their seventh full-length and second recorded reel-to-reel, Vengeful Ascension was captured at Earth Analog in Tolono, Illinois (near Champaign, Illinois) with longtime soundman and comrade Jarrett Pritchard (1349, Gruesome), breaking a four-album tradition of working with Erik Rutan.
“Working with Rutan was awesome. We did some great records with him,” Falgoust is quick to point out. “But you come to a point where you’re like, ‘All right. Let’s try something new.’ It was part of trying to remove ourselves from a comfort zone and a risk thing we needed to take. Plus, we really wanted to hit the essence of where we are live and what better way to harness that than by having our live sound guy involved. Jarrett is knowledgeable with the studio stuff. He also knows how we sound coming out of a PA and we really wanted to get closer to that. Pritchard really focused on that live aspect from every members’ perspective and I think he pushed us out of our personal comfort zones. He really understands our vision.”
The resulting ten-track, forty-one-minute production – mixed by Chris Common (Tribulation, Pelican) and mastered by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More, Halford, Today Is The Day) – marches in, clutches its listeners by the throat and refuses to loosen its grip until the abrupt conclusion of “Those Who Denied God’s Will.” A sonic manifestation of war, chaos, desolation, and emotional conflict, seamlessly bridging twenty years of the band’s signature brand of audio venom, it’s a record that finds its members at their most accomplished both individually and as a cohesive unit. Guitarist Sammy Duet’s dense, sub nuclear riff work and possessed solo blitzes are at their most devastating spiraling flawlessly and instinctually around drummer Zack Simmons’ and bassist James Harvey’s hammering rhythms while Falgoust’s distinctly commanding roar, his acidic prose more enunciated than ever before, complimenting the apocalyptic proceedings.
“I think every song on this record is pretty fucking strong,” the frontman reflects. “Each song is a representation of Goatwhore. from day one until now. It really shows our evolution as a band. I don’t think that this band has reached its peak yet. I mean, I think we’re closer now than ever but we’re still growing; we’re still evolving.”
While hardly a concept record in the traditional sense, Vengeful Ascension loosely revolves itself around Luciferian notions in title and spirit where the symbol of Lucifer serves not as a fiendish, all-destroying demon but rather an emancipator or guiding light. It’s a theme of struggle and transcendence derived from John Milton’s Paradise Lost epic and one that has appeared, whether directly or indirectly, within Goatwhore works of the past.
“There’s that whole idea of Lucifer being the anti-hero,” elaborates Falgoust. “He’s cast out from this place in Heaven to the depths of nothing. He keeps trying to ascend to the top again but no matter what, there’s always this significant force trying to destroy him at any point and banish him back to Hell. If you look at it from an everyday aspect in life, it’s the idea of people, hitting the bottom of the barrel or you know, things just aren’t going right in life… emotion plays a huge part in how people react. Whether it’s based on love or hatred or sadness or whatever, there’s always an aspect of emotion that drives people to an extent. So the whole idea of a ‘Vengeful Ascension’ is built on being at the bottom, working your way to the top, and realizing along the way that there’s other facets to the journey aside from just pure retribution. Within negativity there can exist a positive angle as well.”
Vengeful Ascension serves as the soundtrack to that luciferious rise straight off with the combative, ritualistic drum onslaught of opening hymn, “Forsaken.” Wholly immersive, each track is alarmingly palpable in subject and corresponding execution. The tense, clandestine battery of “Chaos Arcane,” based on HP Lovecraft’s book Nyarlathotep, a story which attempts to recount the inexplicable sense of fear in expectancy of an unknown evil, conveys that sensation of impending doom through sound in a way only Goatwhore can. “Mankind Will Have No Mercy,” a pseudo tribute to Bolt Thrower, seethes under the weight of its own wartime sentiment, while the rapid-fire, punkish urgency of “Under The Flesh, Into The Soul,” a first person account of irrepressible resentment, sounds utterly enraged. “If resentment could speak, that’s it right there,” says Falgoust. “It’s the idea of resentment getting into an individual and just consuming you.” And with an average runtime of just four minutes, no one song ever overstays its welcome.