Released: 2006, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Amid the chaos and devastation of Hurricane Katrina last summer sat Goatwhore, its collective members undoubtedly looking to the sky and wondering what they did to deserve this. After vocalist Ben Falgoust was left in a wheelchair following a near-fatal van accident the year prior (the after-effects of which led to the writing of 2003’s FUNERAL DIRGE FOR THE ROTTING SUN), the New Orleans tragedy was just the latest obstacle faced by the band. The end result is Goatwhore’s third release, the prophetically-titled A HAUNTING CURSE. This vicious slab of horn-raising black metal shows as many flashes of early Celtic Frost as it does the region’s skull-crushingly heavy downtuned sludge. Falgoust’s vocals are a mix of harsh grunts and growls that owe as much to Tom G. Warrior (complete with scads of “oohs”) as they do the snarling shrieks that power the blackened punk/thrash of Darkthrone and early Bathory. Sammy Duet’s riffs are chock full of tremolo-picked speed and axe-grinding heft that carry the songs along on a ride to Hell and back. The blasting drums of Zack Simmons are ruthless and in-your-face but at the same time, Simmons (and rhythm section partner Nathan Bergeron) can flawlessly execute a chunky groove a la fellow-NOLA band, Crowbar. Ruggedly produced by Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal, ex-Morbid Angel), A HAUNTING CURSE is a brilliant CD brimming with anger, venom and aggression. After all, given how the last three years has treated them, what else could be expected of Goatwhore?
Falgoust lets out a death roar immediately to open “Wear These Scars of Testimony” and the blasting firestorm that soldiers behind it immediately sets the tone for A HAUNTING CURSE. The deliciously old-school vibe on “Bloodletting Upon The Cloven Hoof” is wrought with speedily-picked riffs, chaotic blasting and Falgoust’s evil rasp. Slowing down to a mid-paced groove on “Alchemy of The Black Sun Cult” and the thrashing romp of “In The Narrow Confines of Defilement,” the band is eerily reminiscent of MORBID TALES-era Celtic Frost. “Silence Marked By The Breaking of Bone” is ominously crushing as the band oscillates between a mid-tempo stomp and a doom-y, sludge-driven crawl that would not be out of place on FUNERAL DIRGE FOR THE ROTTING SUN. The blackened-Norse-influence-meets-Southern-plod of “Diabolical Submergence of Birth” touches on the Katrina tragedy (“Watery grave for the birth of plague”) but otherwise, the lyrics follow the unholy archetypes of standard metal fare.
Staying on course after being dealt several devastating blows, Goatwhore could have been forgiven for releasing a tepid, introspective batch of half-assed songs. Instead, the band has delivered their strongest, heaviest and most well-defined album of their career. A HAUNTING CURSE is sure to land in many writers’ year-end lists and deservedly so. Raw, dirty and the antithesis of symphonic black metal, A HAUNTING CURSE proves that old adage that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
KILLER KUTS: “Wear These Scars of Testimony,” “Bloodletting Upon The Cloven Hoof,” “Alchemy of The Black Sun Cult,” “In The Narrow Confines of Defilement,” “Silence Marked By The Breaking of Bone,” “Diabolical Submergence of Rebirth”