Top 20 Heavy Albums of 2012

1609110009-1Honorable Mention: Eyehategod, New Orleans is the New Vietnam 7″

Haarp, Husks cover20    haarp, Husks

No appreciable evolution over last time, but still ugly trudge-laden aural misanthropy.

blood for the master, cover19    Goatwhore, Blood for the Master

They refined Carving Out the Eyes of God‘s formula by just a hair of a blade– but they’re  still an evil death metal Motörhead.

Hour of 13, 333 cover18    Hour of 13, 333

Ho13 always make the bottom of the year-end lists for me. Well written, unambitious traditional doom rock.

Witchsorrow - God Curse Us17    Witchsorrow, God Curse Us

Oozing stoner-y doom with a bit of Celtic Frost worship.

Dead Roots Stirring, cover16    Elder, Dead Roots Stirring

Witchsorrow if they drank hard liquor and beer and smoked less weed.

dragged-into-sunlight-Widowmaker-album-art-cover-2012-1500x150015    Dragged Into Sunlight, Widowmaker

Blackened Sludge; the only thing outright uglier than this record is no. 13 below.

meshuggah, koloss, cover14    Meshuggah, Koloss

Again, a hairline refinement (in this case simplicity) for the kings of polymeter/ polyrhythm thinking (wo)man’s extreme music.

Anaal Nathrakh, Vanitas13    Anaal Nathrakh, Vanitas

UGLY. Worse than last time. The industrial grindcore of black metal.

ETwinCover300dpiCMYK12    Eagle Twin, The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale

Southern Lord (the label) blues; Tom Waits jams with Greg Anderson.

effigies of evil (high res)11    Hooded Menace, Effigies of Evil

Ripped-out Fangoria pages strewn across fresh asphalt, being pressed into the muck by a steamroller: The band.

ufomammut-oro-opus-alter-cover10    Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Alter

Hated it at first, went to Colorado and then Washington and learned exactly what this album is for, and why it is the perfect Dalí plays Dark Side of the Moon-esque material for those states.

Nachtmystium-Silencing-Machine9      Nachtmystium, Silencing Machine

As catchy as black metal gets; nearly psychedelic in its sonic randomness and anarchy.

Serpentine Path, self-titled cover (hi-res)8      Serpentine Path, Serpentine Path

Members of Ramesses and Unearthly Trance make the nuclear ice-breaker of glacial paces.

The-Sword_Apocryphon7      The Sword, Apocryphon

They got heavier while still keeping the psychedelic stoner mood of Warp Riders. The concepts running lyrically through this concept album are fascinating.

Lillie F-65, cover6      Saint Vitus, Lillie:  F-65

Pharmaceutical grade stoner metal.

Sylosis, original cover (hi-res)5      Sylosis, Monolith

The first muscular, melodic mature-yet-furious thrash metal record I’ve heard in years.

Layout 14      Windhand, Windhand

Hour of 13 + Witchsorrow + Elder = Windhand. Occult traditional stoner doom metal. Psychedelic yet sinister. Evil hippies. Evil hippies who are “just into the religion of love, man… love of Satan….”

Book Burner, cover3      Pig Destroyer, Book Burner

High gain mid-range turn on a dime deathgrind fury. Just as good as their classic last LP, but very different.

Witchcraft-Legend2      Witchcraft, Legend

Beautifully-written, gracefully arranged 70s-ish occult rock, with a vocalist who can go from cold, crystal-clear, taunting malice to roaring disdain– and still stay have melody running all up in this motherfucker.

Monolith of Inhumanity, cover1      Cattle Mutilation, Monolith of Inhumanity

What death/grind is supposed to be: musically complex yet logically arranged extreme music that can change from blisteringly-fast to Inception-the-third-dream-deep slow– that is also lyrically both literate and surprisingly shocking. Kudos especially to vocalist Travis Ryan for being streets ahead of every other extreme metal singer: there were so many different variations in the vocals it sounded like all of Milton’s “thousand demi-gods on golden seats” got a shot at roaring.

Goatwhore, Blood for the Master

Having previously written about Goatwhore here,

their previous album, Carving Out the Eyes of God here,

and their live show here

what follows, gentle reader, is my experience of their newest LP, Blood for the Master, wherein it may be safely assumed that your narrator is most thoroughly on said New Orleans-based  black/death/thrash ‘n’ roll band’s proverbial dick.

Short version: Goatwhore are a blackened, thrash ‘n’ roll Mötorhead. Blood for the Master solidifies this assessment.

Take that as you will.

(And call me over-analytical, but it amuses me that a band from the bottom of the Mississippi Delta, New Orleans, my home, can sound so much like an evolution of a band from the chilly Midlands of England, Birmingham.)

Track one, “Collapse in Eternal Worth,” (which continues the Goatwhore tradition of seemingly/probably blasphemous yet-incredibly-vague song titles) opens with blast beats and segues to D-beats, but at around 2 minutes hits a memorable, maudlin chorus (it’s even  hummable)… like something from a lost Celtic Frost demo….

Track two, “When Steel and Bone Meet,” (which, along with the above album opener, was pre-released) is a 3-minute D-beat, raspy-vocaled Satanic Discharge-fest.

Track four, “In Deathless Tradition,” opens with that roar-of-roars (Oh Ben Falgoust, you star, you)– and reiterates the necessary place of a great vocalist –including the line, “Forgiveness is the failure of your faith,” again a wildly-vague yet sinister pronouncement in that rasp-of-rasps….

“Judgement of the Bleeding Crown,” next, again with its opening blast beats, then Mötorhead-ish double-bass and D-beats, manages to sound like a heavier, early-career Ministry (think The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste)… track six, “Embodiment of This Bitter Chaos,” opens with an Atheist-like acoustic intro, complete with melodic guitar solo, only to segue to a lurching, forebeat-ish riff at around 1:00…

Track seven, “Beyond the Spell of Discontent,” actually sounds like, in its chorus, memorable black metal, or the background of a Michael Mann film (analyze that commonality at your leisure)…

Song eight, “Death to the Architects of Heaven,” adds a NWOBHM-ish flair to their Lemmy-and-co. sound before taking off into blast beats and minor verse riffs. It sound like something Metallica would’ve covered on Garage, Inc. or the $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-visited.

“An End to Nothing” is a full-on rager, starting at double-bass out the ass D-beat velocity and never letting up, and track 10, i.e. closer “My Name Is Frightful Among the Believers,” continues this blast-the-shit-out-of-the-ending-of-the-album tradition, alternating from blast beat to D-beats and back again

The fact is –perhaps memorably, and this, ironically– these tracks are not at all memorable for the most part.

They’re nearly all interesting (from a metal/musician standpoint), but pretty much none of them will linger in your ears (i.e., brain)– they’re so remarkably non-memorable that I wonder if this wasn’t intentional.

–But again, I love to overanalyze stuff–

Is is good? Yes, very much so–

the sheer ferocity of Blood For the Master brings to mind the best Behemoth– as played by Mötorhead.

Tell me that doesn’t sound like fun.

Feeling disillusioned? By nearly anything? From organized religion, to society in general?

Put this on.

The sheer rageful rejection of All will fill your soul (ironic thing to say, isn’t it, of something so obviously Satanic)….

You may not remember the riffs, but you’ll remember the visceral feeling you got from the record, played loud and drowning out your problems.

Live Review: Goatwhore, 2-6-12

The Vernon Club, just off the interstate in Louisville, Kentucky, is about the space of a really spacious apartment. It’s under a bowling alley. A double Jack Daniel’s costs $12 (£ 7.5). Not much compared to Boston or New York, but still….

(Maybe) interestingly, this whole endeavor became, at least while wading through the opening bands, a sort of amateur sociological study:

At a casual glance, band members and audience members tended to look like metal fans tend to look– i.e.,  homeless and probably suffering from at least several personality disorders: old black clothes, dreads, very long hair and beards, et cetera.

What might not be as obvious is how much money they spent to look this way– by my estimation, there were thousands of dollars’ worth of tats (full color sleeves, back tats, everything) and musical equipment ($2000 Hamer, Paul Reed Smith, Fender and Gibson guitars –and two or so of these per musician), not to mention the amps and electronics through which they played them.

It’s the John Cougar Mellancamp haircut issue: an hour on your hair, spent to look like you just got out of bed.

The dress code, too, was even more narrow than the first time I went to a metal concert– I was wearing, comically literally, the only white t-shirt and white shoes in the whole venue (and after noticing this after about an hour, I consciously scanned the place to see if I was being paranoid– nope).

And I am not giving up my Hanes v-necks. Fuck you.

Of all people, I would argue Billy Joel summarizes this phenomenon the most succinctly:

      Where have you been hidin’ out lately, honey?
You can’t dress trashy till you spend a lot of money.

Ah, metal– 25 years after my first concert, still a fashion show. (Not that other genres aren’t.)

I drove two hours to see Goatwhore and have been standing this whole time because chairs are apparently not metal. Don’t get me wrong– I’m in good shape and I work out five days a week– but I’m essentially middle-aged and after five hours of just standing, watching bands, my goddamned feet hurt.

They still do, as I write this.

And so after five (fucking five!) local opening bands, one of whom I’ll write about later, New Orleans’ Satanic-blackened-death-thrash-metal outfit Goatwhore go on at 11:15 pm.

At this point there was so much smoke from the smoke/fog/haze machine my sinuses are still nearly completely blocked– but Goddamn

it looked cool.

Black (ened) metal needs theatrics… it needs features that highlight and exaggerate the ceremonial aspects of the performance… just ask Watain and their blood-fests. They set the stage.

I would argue, anthropologically-speaking, that they play up an essential human need to connect to the Divine, and are accoutrements we find psychologically necessary to facilitate that process.

But that’s just me.

You know… it’s whatevs, as the kids say today. (So I hear.)

So with no curtain, Goatwhore walked onto the stage and started talking, via the PA, with the sound engineer: they were particularly (in my experience, anyway) specific and demanding about their “wedges” (i.e., stage sound monitors)– noticeably the specific combination of what they wanted to hear as they played: guitarist Sammy Duet, in a rather intimidating tone, I venture to say, needed snare and bass in his; singer Ben Falgoust wanted the vocals way down in the mix, but wanted the guitars way up; and bassist James Harvey, all six foot four of him, never said a word– he just kept gesturing up and down until he nodded approval with whatever he was hearing.

Once this was settled, Ben Falgoust looked at the other members of Goatwhore, a few seconds passed…

…and shit EXPLODED.

I mean, surprisingly so, considering the band members were discussing trivialities for about a full five minutes in front of the audience.

But once they started playing… they became– Something Else.

In all seriousness… irony aside:  fucking… wow.

This is why you see bands in person.

Maybe the openers were there only to reinforce the star power, for lack of a better word, of Goatwhore.

The other bands were fine, very technically and musically competent– but there was always that seeming hesitation, that subverbal lack of confidence: and after five bands’ worth of this, you start to think maybe it’s just you.

And then Ben Falgoust starts singing, and his sheer stage presence is comically obvious compared to the previous five other bands.

Metal doesn’t use the term “star power” or “stage presence” that much (thank God), but here, it’s genuinely deserved– once Goatwhore started playing, it was obvious they had that certain something (particularly Falgoust):  you wanted to watch him; you wanted to hear whatever he had to say, you wanted to do what he told you to do (generally involving screaming HEY and fist pumping)–





What’d they play, you might’ve asked, droolingly…?

Let’s see: “Collapse in Eternal Worth” and “When Steel and Bone Meet,” from the upcoming Blood For the Master; what I think was “Into a Darker Sun,” from The Eclipse of Ages into Black; “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult” from A Haunting Curse; “Blood Guilt Eucharist,” from Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun; “The All-Destroying,” “Carving out the Eyes of God,” [see below] and “Provoking the Ritual of Death,” from Carving Out the Eyes of God.

Falgoust’s stage banter between numbers was funny and/ or hilarious: a bit about Blood For the Master being released on Valentine’s Day –“Maybe it’s a reference to your significant other’s time of the month,” got a lot of laughs; and when he asked if anyone had pre-ordered the upcoming album, one guy screamed something– after this Falgoust said, “Hey listen, I don’t care if you buy it, I don’t care if you steal it, I’m not here to accuse you, I just want you to rock the album… I got an idea: everyone [here], just borrow that guy’s copy, and in a couple of months, when we come back, everyone’ll be on the same page.”

AND they played the intro to Sab’s “Into the Void,” causing an embarrassing amount of THRILL on my part.

Finally, they closed with “Apocalyptic Havoc.” When they hit the line in the second chorus–

“Who needs a god, when you’ve got Satan?!”

Which EVERYONE, from the bouncers, to the kids up front, to the bartenders, knew–

it was practically liturgical– (perhaps ironically)… but the thrill was still there in screaming the line, with both hands making the HORNS.

All in all, there were about 100 people there at the end (about 25 of whom, no exaggeration, were in opening bands)– not bad for a cold Monday night with no other major bands playing.

I recorded about 30 seconds of “Carving Out the Eyes of God,” which you can see below (I would’ve recorded more, but I’m not a fucking documentarian– I came to rock out, baby).

Goatwhore, Carving Out the Eyes of God

What with a recent hype-up of their (as of this writing) upcoming album Blood For the Master, and my having tickets to see them play on Feb. 6,  I revisited Goatwhore’s previous LP, Carving Out the Eyes of God, playing it on tank-like, if outdated speakers, at jet-engine volume.*

At its best, in other words.

“Apocalyptic Havoc” the lead single (see below) opens with all-out Venom/Celtic Frost 32nd notes, updated for this year (which actually is  pretty good synopsis of the entire album), and contains the immortal line “Who needs a God, when you’ve got Satan?!”

“The All-Destroying,” next, is blastbeats then D-beats then flat-out downbeats and contines the tradition thusfar of grimly-satisfied-nodding-to-riffs, rather than out-and-out funky jams… and I love every time singer Ben Falgoust says “Ooooh!” à la Tom G. Warrior.

“Carving out the eyes of God,” has a cool, melodic blastbeaten chorus (and is pretty hummable), and on the right sterio/headphones, the triplet bass drum patterns are Alex Van Halen on “Hot For Teacher” cool.

“Shadow of a Living Knife,” in its middle section fires up a great triplet-bass-drum blast beat and segues into a sweet semi-sweep-picked solo… “Provoking the Ritual of Death” opens with tribal drums and sludge riffs before its blastbeaten percussion returns… “In Legions, I am Wars of Wrath,” with its refrain of LIES! is fucking Epic… “Reckoning of the Soul Made Godless” slows down and rocks out in 4/4, “Razor Flesh Devoured” is pure fury, blastbeat to D-beat to-blastbeat, ad infinitum, wherein it fades out (officially ending the album), although…

“To Mourn and Wander Forever Through Forgotten Doorways,” a bonus track, comes up next, ominous minor-chorded arpeggios leading to a spoken-word invocation, easily the moodiest track here, not unlike “Lucifer” from Behemoth’s Evangelion. I can see why it wasn’t on the official LP, but it probably should’ve been: it’s might’ve worked well in the middle of the released album, as a high-velocity-tempo breather….

The entire album is perfect “blackened death metal,” i.e., the guitars are detuned (i.e., bass-y as hell) and there are as many hyper-kinetic D-beats as there are blast beats, but the lyrics and imagery is occult/Satanic.

Overall, generic but completely invested in what they do:


amazon.com link

*my beautiful and talented wife was not home; perhaps that was obvious.

A Goatwhore primer

I don't think they realize that drinking Christ's blood is really, really Christian.

What with Blood for the Master coming out on Valentine’s Day 2012 (because that makes sense), here’s your primer– i.e., what you need to know, about New Orleans’ blackened death metal act Goatwhore.

Up-to-this-point highlights:

“Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult,” from 2006’s A Haunting Curse, “Apocalyptic Havoc” (video here*), “Carving Out the Eyes of God,” and “Provoking the Ritual of Death,” from 2009’s Carving Out the Eyes of God.

No bullshit/ short version: they’re all modernized Celtic Frost tunes.

Is that not enough?

What is it you demand? Complete originality?

I can’t help you, nor can Goatwhore– but otherwise we can rock the shit out of you.

So, from said upcoming Blood for the Master, here’s “When Steel and Bone Meet,” and “Collapse in Eternal Worth” to tide you over until Valentine’s Day.

*Otherwise known as “Who needs a God, when you have Satan…!?”