Not enough can be said about the miraculous change Goatwhore made on 2009’s Carving Out the Eyes of God. A relatively small tweak — the inclusion of the occasional hummable thrash riff — suddenly opened the band up: instead of a cold, perfect-to-a-fault killing machine, they became a well-functioning doomsday device. From there, they just spat out a series of surprisingly well-crafted songs. Not much has changed on their latest, Blood for the Master, but not much needed to: Goatwhore’s latter-day appeal rests in perfecting a model then wringing as much as they can out of it. After seeing dozens of once-mighty bands stumble over tone-deaf prog or ill-used pop songwriting, staying the course could be the best decision they’ve made. If it ain’t broke, just keep reappropriating Exhorder riffs to maximum effect.

And Lord, do they ever. Like if some hesher’s heavily-backpatched denim jacket holed up in a studio with Erik Rutan and made the only music it knew how, Blood for the Master is free of irony, pretentiousness, and bullshit. There’s little variance, but that’s what makes it even more impressive: whereas most bands would sound derivative after 4 or 5 songs, the album only gains momentum as it goes on. Starting with the sort of fiercely militant black metal that would make Marduk all hot and bothered, “Collapse in Eternal Worth” is a logical beginning for Master. The song eventually slows down and presents a master class in mid-paced riffs, eventually wrapping up on the opening frenzy, although presented at a more human tempo. This is a fitting metaphor for the band itself: yes, obliteration is important, but so is savoring the moments afterward and in between. The key to what they do is the right balance of the two. And that balance is on full display here: “Judgment of the Bleeding Crown” starts as fierce black metal then segues into some hardcore-grade grooves, while “Death to the Arichitects of Heaven” is chunky thrash woven into vaguely atmospheric sections, all without losing ferocity. Nothing really strays too far from Goatwhore’s MO, but that focus is what makes them so engaging.

The album’s masterstroke, though, is the one-two punch of it’s last two tracks. Topping a half hour of ably-executed blackened death-thrash isn’t easy, but they pull it off with aplomb: “An End to Nothing” is rooted in one machine gun thrash riff, while “My Name is Frightful Among the Believers” opens with the kind of chaotic blackened grind that 1349 salivates over. They help Blood for the Master complete its cycle of one-upmanship, ending as fiercely as it began. This is all a tribute to Goatwhore as a unit: guitarist Sammy Duet and bassist James Harvey craft the band’s most appealing element (riffs, of course), which is then anchored with both precision and personality by drummer Zack Simmons, then augmented by Falgoust’s verbose snarl. This is familiar metal, but also uniquely Goatwhore. No frills rarely gets more satisfying than this. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a colossal winning streak, and we can keep hearing about just how much the band hates Jesus for years to come.

(4 out of 5 horns)


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