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Slightly disappointing, but still enjoyed it - 70%

Beast of Burden, July 16th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Metal Blade Records (Digipak)

Three years. Three years of waiting with bated breath for the new release of the NOLA blackened death juggernauts. I know that I, myself, was anticipating the new album to be another home run. After all, the two albums that came before it were amazing in their own right. Nothing wrong with a third to round it out.

Unfortunately this time around, there's a bit of a bitter aftertaste following this album's digestion. Let's discuss it, shall we?

I'm confident that many fans of Goatwhore attended their shows and got the laminate that came with the pre-order code to have the album sent to you, along with a t-shirt detailing the album's pretty badass cover art. I wasn't one of them, sadly. They never came around to Charlotte this time around and not having a car makes it difficult to attend shows outside of your city. Luckily for me and others, there was still hope. We were still able to order the laminate that had the pre-order code to get the shirt and the album. I did. So come mid-June, I got my copy of the new album early and I immediately popped it into my computer, ripped it to Windows Media Player, and hit play, eager to have my sense of reality destroyed completely and utterly as they've done time and time again.

From the album's start, the immediate thing that draws my attention besides the drum beat that opens the first song is the production style. Unlike the albums that came before it, especially Constricting Rage of the Merciless, the guitars don't sound as sharp, the double bass has lost most of its punch, and the vocals sound buried in some spots. It's confusing why they decided to change producers because it takes away most of the power these songs have. To be fair to them, the band stated they wanted to try working with a different producer, specifically it was because they wanted to give this album a more live feel to the sound. They did it with the intention of changing things up, maybe level the playing field. Here's the thing, though. Eric Rutan is a fantastic producer. He produced the band's best sounding albums, the albums that had the most memorable songs partly because of the clear production. Mind you, aforementioned albums weren't squeaky clean - for Goatwhore, that would be a mortal sin - but they maintained a level of sheer rawness that gave songs like "Baring Teeth for Revolt" or "When Steel and Bone Meet," which were already incredibly performed (and are even better live) such immense, earth destroying power. That's just not here with Vengeful Ascension. That kind of sucks because if things were clearer, some of these songs would have much more power than they do.

For instance, the songs "Chaos Arcane" and "Under the Flesh, Into the Soul" are definitely two flagship songs that immediately make you look past the off-putting production. They both start off intensely with a driving beat and riffs that rip, shred, and tear like nobody's business. Jack Harvey and Sammy Duet are, once again, displaying their fantastic chemistry with one another. There's never been any shortage of the most vicious, razor sharp guitar riffs and tantalizingly evil bass lines that ring through clearly the malice very much intended to violently endow upon the listener all the impunity that can be offered, no matter who's behind the instruments. Zack Simmons has always stayed at the top of his game since the very beginning of his days starting with A Haunting Curse. As time went on, he's only gotten better, varying up his drumming technique since those days with unique fills, intensely fast blast beats and plenty of variety to really keep listeners on their toes. These are just two of the few songs giving the finest examples of the best this album has to offer, not to mention, every band member in top form here.

Sadly, I can't say the same for the main venom spewer of the bunch, Ben Falgoust. I don't know what it is, but I can't help but get the feeling that Ben is phoning it in on this record. Not entirely, though. He is still incredibly vicious behind the microphone on the faster tracks like "Mankind Will Have No Mercy." It's mostly a track by track basis for him here whereas on every track on the past two efforts, he sounded like he wanted to end the goddamn world as we knew it. Have you heard "Baring Teeth for Revolt" or "When Steel and Bone Meet"? Listen to that man's performance on those songs. He sounds fucking possessed. On this album, he doesn't sound possessed or hungering for utter ruination of mankind throughout the whole thing. On some songs he does. On others, it's the standard scream/growl he's employed time and time again with little spice to keep the listener on the edge of their seat.

The songs themselves aren't very memorable, either. Some of them like "When the Sun is Silent" and the title track feel as if they're on autopilot. It's like the band is going through the motions. The album opener, "Forsaken," isn't that great of an opener. It starts off slowly and meanders in that deathly tribal pace until its conclusion. A few blast beats and great fills here and there, but nothing amazing to really report. One song started up from this album on my randomizer and I couldn't remember what it was. Hell, until I heard the vocals, I couldn't even tell it was Goatwhore. It was that foreign to my ears. It sounded like an entirely different band. I think it was "Decayed Omen Reborn," but I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. With every other Goatwhore album (with the exception of Carving Out the Eyes of God and Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun), I've memorized at least one aspect of each song after the first complete listen. I could then subsequently tell you the name of the song after one more listen. I can't do that here and I've listened to this album multiple times. Only a few songs stick out that make me do that like "Mankind Will Have No Mercy," "Drowned In Grim Rebirth," and the closer track "Those Who Denied God's Will."

Overall, this album was a letdown, which sucks because I was really hoping this would be another near flawless addition to their already fantastic discography. I'm confident many of these songs would sound better live than in the studio. I don't doubt that at all. It sounds like it's what the fans wanted and what the band intended. In my opinion, Goatwhore should release a live album at this point. They've got seven albums under their belt and they're damn near a household name to those who hold extreme metal near and dear to their hearts. Release a live album with a glut of songs spanning their entire career from The Eclipse of Ages Into Black to now. That would be a great gift to the fans. I'm sure it was with good intention to give their fans what they wanted to make their new album resemble a live performance in sound, atmosphere, and overall power, but here it just didn't work. At least it didn't work for me.

Best tracks:
"Under the Flesh, Into the Soul"
"Chaos Arcane"
"Mankind Will Have No Mercy"
"Those Who Denied God's Will"