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Goatwhore's first album was fantastic, and this too is fantastic, though of a somewhat different sound. While the general elements are still in place from 'The Eclipse Of Ages Into Black', Goatwhore seems to have taken it up a notch on this release with a greater level of technicality and brutality in certain areas, with the overall package feeling more extreme than the previous album. Fortunately, nothing has been sacrificed in the departments of atmosphere or songwriting, so I'm happy to say that this is just as good as the band's debut.
The overall tempo of this release seems higher; there's plenty of blasting and uptempo thrashing to go around. Fortunately the midpaced sections Goatwhore is well known for remain intact, as do the riffing sensibilities of the band. As catchy, dark, and atmospheric as ever, they vary between death metal tremolo, rhythmic Celtic Frost chugs, and strangely uplifting, melodic strumming in that 'Satan's finally marching on heaven' style we know and love. The production has become less sludgy and more immediate, and the somewhat overly sharp drums have been dealt with by sharpening up the guitar tone. Vocals are still a snarling black metal rasp, but now a greater presence of declarative, half-spoken clean vocals is employed, actually working extremely well towards the epic structuring of the release.
Much like Goatwhore's first album, the names of the game are songwriting and consistency. Goatwhore is not a band afraid to experiment with nontraditional elements when necessary, but they never fall into the trap that is gimmick and novelty. Every track on this album has its place, from the simplest Hellhammer and Darkthrone worship to the most complex and multifaceted progressive-leaning composition. It's unapologetically metal without upholding any stereotypes about how the genre should be, and can be listened to as drinking music just as much as a scholarly and intelligent composition.
I think that's what makes Goatwhore so great: it's entirely natural music, as though the members had never heard of metal and its rules and simply came up with this material on their own. There's no pandering to any audiences. They're a band that is unafraid to be what they are, but don't see that independence as a sign to try any less. Every moment of this album has clearly been carefully composed for maximum effectiveness in communicating pure darkness and misanthropy, and each moment succeeds both on its own terms and in the scope of the album itself. Goatwhore understands that there is a place in metal that isn't a middle ground, isn't a compromise, but is an intelligent yet grounded place to be. It's not beer'n'tits Pantera and Cannibal Corpse worship, it's not overtly pretentious Dream Theater fellatio. It is metal, and it's one of the best examples of what the genre can be when the 'scene' is taken out of the equation.
A great album from a great band. Buy it.