Goatwhore has made quite the name for themselves in the last few years. I picked up on these guys around the days of Funeral Dirge For The Rotting Sun, running across them as they toured incessantly. (Back then, I’d see their name on the fliers for Nashville shows about four times a year, it seemed. My initial reaction still stands: “Goatwhore” is one of the best band names I’ve run across in a decade or longer—or maybe ever.) After releasing two records on indie label Rotten Records, these Nola-sludge all-stars signed a bigger deal with Metal Blade and dropped the staggering blast of A Haunting Curse in 2006. The combination of their road-honed tightness, first-class songwriting and a stout-as-fuck Erik Rutan production made Curse one of my top-played records that year and one that still sees frequent spins in my house. So it’s safe to say that I’ve been looking forward to Carving Out The Eyes Of God…
…and I’m happy to report that it’s not a let-down in the slightest.
First things first: Carving feels toned-down a bit from Curse‘s bludgeoning bile. This is still sludge-tinted black/death, but yet it’s a bit more (dare I say) streamlined, and then yet again, it’s still equally vicious and ugly. A paradox, perhaps, but a truth… Regardless of whether Carving is a step down from Curse’s focused intensity, it makes up for that turn by ramping up the sense of malice and evil that characterized Goatwhore’s earlier records. In that respect, if perhaps not in sonic fury, Carving is every bit as voracious as its immediate predecessor. This malevolence is simply a more calculated malevolence. Nonetheless, starting with lead track “Apocalyptic Havoc,” Carving comes out of the gate swinging, markedly thrashier than Curse, exploring further the legendary bands whose influences the Goats have perpetually cited—the Kreators and the Celtic Frosts and so on. Sammy Duet has always cranked out some seriously masterful riffage, both in Goatwhore and Acid Bath before that, and his riffs on Carving are killer from top to bottom, many among the best in a catalog already filled with winners. Ben Falgoust (of Soilent Green) is a first-class vocalist, one of the best around, and he’s also in top form, as is the rhythm section of bassist Nathan Bergeron and drummer Zach Simmons (also of Scrotesque and Nachtmystium, respectively). But even as good as the rest of the band is, Carving’s glories ultimately belong to Sammy and his endless array of twisting, biting riffs… (Check out the brooding “To Mourn And Forever Wander Through Forgotten Doorways” for some simple-but-killer six-string work, and goddamn, check out “In Legions, I Am Wars Of Wrath,” for some straight out pummeling.) The guitar tone is thick and punchy—the whole of Carving once again benefits soundly (ha!) from Rutan’s presence in the producer’s chair.
The blastbeats may be fewer (although not absent), and the entire affair might not be as overwhelmingly oppressive as before, but in the more moderate minutes, there’s still a menace in the midpaced madness that slays—moments like the off-kilter melodies in the midst of the title track that still manage to melt the mind. Not everything is beautifully rotten roses—some tracks are better than others, as would be expected, but nothing on hand is a mis-step, mis-fire or mistake. Some listeners will likely view Carving as a step backwards, while others will view it as a holding pattern, and hell, maybe it is either or both. (I’d argue against the former, but the latter is probably true.) It’s also a damn good record with some wicked neck-snapping riffage and excellent performances from a first-rate band, and all of that adds up to more than enough to put Carving in the running for a slot on my year-end list. (And well ahead of many competitors, to boot…)
Goatwhore has made quite the name for themselves in the last few years, and quite simply, this is why. Well done, gentlemen.