Goatwhore may as well be synonymous with consistency at this point; while each album released by the NOLA blackened death metal group has it’s own quirks and distinctions, the band has a very specific sound that is rarely deviated from. Vengeful Ascension demonstrates that Goatwhore is still very much content with the rock-n-roll influenced style of extreme metal that they’ve designed for themselves. That being said, this time around, the music is markedly slower, blacker, and at times, bluesier than anything I’ve heard from the band before.
It’s not often that drumming manages to be the highlight of an album for me, but Vengeful Ascension flaunts a wide range of drumming speeds that offer significantly more variety than anything heard from the other instruments. The percussion is mixed damn near flawlessly, never being drowned out by anything and, in turn, never overwhelming any other layer of the music or otherwise distracting from the whole. There’s a tendency to be heavy on the cymbal usage, which runs really smoothly alongside the black metal guitar tone as it cranks out those groovy, southern-flavored riffs. The majority of the riffs are slow, too, which is where the blues roots manage to shine through, but the contrast between the furious drums and whining guitar is incredibly well utilized.
Goatwhore seems to have been especially considerate of tempo this time around; there’s not nearly as much thrash-based intensity as there is on, say, Blood For the Master, but the embrace of their slower side has refined it into something darker and overall more pleasing to the ear. The band has always had a southern sort of groove to them, as many bands from NOLA and the surrounding area tend to, but it’s more of a priority on Vengeful Ascension. This is made evident with the track “Where The Sun Is Silent” (if it wasn’t noticeable enough before it), which is almost jarring in how much it slows thing down. Once you get into the swing of it, though, it makes for a perfect middle-of-the-album break and avoids the pitfall of being a throwaway or otherwise unimpressive ambient interlude, as bands seem to have gotten so fond of employing. It’s also a beautifully crushing track that’s able to stand on it’s own.
Vengeful Ascension is a testament to Goatwhore’s vitality; it’s colder, bolder, and leans more towards their black metal side, all while remaining recognizable as the amusingly-named band we all know and love. There are several elements that have evolved slightly since Constricting Rage of the Merciless and there’s been a slight departure from their thrashy side, but it really boils down to just more of the good stuff. There’s a finite number of ways that one can profane the name of God, but I’m happy to see that Goatwhore is still exploring that territory.
Vengeful Ascension is now available via Metal Blade Records and Goatwhore’s Bandcamp page.