I first crossed paths with Black/Death Thrashers Goatwhore in 2012 when I reviewed their Blood For The Master album for MetalTalk. Straight after submitting my review, I immediately went on the hunt for as much of their back catalogue as I could get my hands on. Across the decades that my collection of their material spans, I don’t think they’ve done a bad song.
Goatwhore – Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven (Metal Blade Records)
Release Date: 7 October 2022
Words: Jools Green
If you like one Goatwhore track, you will probably love everything they create, such is the consistency of their material. But this latest offering, Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven, the follow-up to 2017s Vengeful Ascension, has lifted that bar of excellence even higher. It packs a massive punch.
They began writing the twelve-track, forty-five-minute Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven back in 2018. But because of the pandemic, a lot of post-pandemic touring and other personal commitments, it has made the usual three-ish year gap between records a little longer, but it is well worth the wait. But as Sammy Duet said in an interview with MetalTalk’s Paul Hutchings, this “was almost like a blessing in disguise.”
It’s described by vocalist Louis Ben Falgoust II as “being very raw, but clarity is shaped within the chaos. It’s a journey of everything we have done and some new approaches as we advance forward. When we write, we mainly focus on the music and what we enjoy about playing it. We don’t write just to appease others. We want to enjoy playing it in a live setting as well, especially night after night on the road.”
The intriguing title, Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven, is, as always, deep and direct, with vocalist Louis explaining that “it is a basis of human despondency, the arc of life and its relationship with the personal abyss of overwhelming emotion and thought. A mixture of esoteric ideas and biblical scripts and the journey to the places some people care not to venture on mental paths. The rise and fall of the self and how the abyss can be a turning point for some and a passageway to oblivion for others. It is blunt and to the point, just like countless aspects of life.”
Lyrically, there is a mixture of concepts. “Some pay homage to older things that influence us,” Louis says, “and some are more present and are blended with esoteric ideas involved with the dark arts and other obscure concepts. The range of ideas may be on the cusp of dismal to depraved. The concept fits the mood or emotional terrain at the time. The world has a lot to offer on these ideas, so the pot is always bubbling with new influences.”
Opening with the brief but ominous scene-setting intro, Invocation 3, then it’s straight into Born Of Satan’s Flesh, an intense, blackened thrasher that drives along unrelentingly but hides a dark, slightly groovy, melodic undercurrent that emerges from time to time, unleashing a sultry burst of leadwork in the second half that definitely reflects that undercurrent.
The Bestowal Of Abomination continues with a dark drive, alongside a repeating haunting dark melody and squealy mid-point leadwork, a hugely addictive and engaging offering.
Next, the title track, Angels Hung From The Arches of Heaven, looks at the idea of emotional despondency within older texts and writings, that several of these writings missed an element of human nature/emotion. “The basic laws and rules guided by simple aspects of good and evil and the emotional/mental journey in which people would have to traverse them,” Louis says. “Life is simple, but very complex when coming to the relationships of numerous people together and their paths crossing. The idea was spawned from delving into my own idea behind the relationship between Judas and Jesus, by reading various writings on the topic, from the basic ones we all have heard to the forbidden concepts like the Gospels Of Judas.”
Furthermore, it is also about “the idea of doing something you may think is positive or beneficial,” Louis says, “but it only ends up putting you in a more negative foundation, and this abstraction can send a person into a very dark place. Life around you begins to crumble, and the thoughts become more askew. The title is more of a metaphor embracing this idea.”
It manifests musically as a very haunting, dark and reflective piece, with an equally dark melodic undercurrent that courses across the duration of the track, making it deceptively powerful, understatedly brutal and hugely engaging. Completed with an eerily reflective piano close, it is a superb track.
Death From Above has an interesting source of inspiration for its lyrics. It’s loosely based on the “Nachthexen, or Night Witches, a group of female Soviet aviators in a bomber division deployed in 1942, a period during which women were in fact barred from combat,” explains Louis.
“Major Marina Raskova used her position to create female combat units, and the 588th Night Bomber Regiment was born and comprised of female volunteers in their late teens and early twenties. An attack technique of the night bombers involved idling the engine near the target and gliding to the bomb-release point with only wind noise left to reveal their presence. German soldiers likened the sound to broomsticks and hence named the pilots Night Witches.”
It takes on an old-school crossover direction to the sound. Driving and brutally addictive, the guitars drop back between lyrical passages, suggesting that the engine cuts and glides before deploying, with the added atmospheric element of sirens.
Ruinous Liturgy charges on at an unrelenting pace, spurred on further by bursts of thrashy leadwork. Victory Is The Lightning Of Destruction has a wonderfully fuzzy drive bolstered once more by thrashy leadwork.
Voracious Blood Fixation has superb fuzzy dominance and engaging thrash-based leads, and The Devil’s Warlords continues in a similar vein with a rampaging riff-fuelled undercurrent and plenty of punch to its delivery.
The sinister Weight Of A Soulless Heart explores the darker side of life. With its dominant drum delivery, it delivers an aspect I like immensely, alongside ominous crunchy riffing.
Nihil charges through like an unstoppable juggernaut annihilating everything in its wake. Finally, the album closer And I Was Delivered From The Wound Of Perdition is a six-minute monster that builds with eerie sinister intent. Generally slower in pace but intense, it is a powerful statement track and perfect closer, ending on the echoing repeat of “All life is lost”.
Across all the tracks, Louis is superbly, vocally broad ranging as always.
I love the cover art, particularly for the inclusion of the sigils on the gothic window-like features. Subtle yet intriguing, they were created by long-time collaborator Jordan Barlow. “We give him an idea, and then he just goes with it,” Louis says. “We used sigils in the past with our name and other small details but wanted to make this album more rooted in it. It adds a deeper aspect to our visual presentation. It creates interest and, with that, inspires questions. We want the listener to delve into this musical journey with us both by sound and vision.”
It definitely offers an enticing suggestion of the esoteric to the album, which certainly manifests lyrically too. There’s a lot of depth and ideas to ponder with Angels Hung From The Arches of Heaven.
I’ll leave the final comment with guitarist Sammy Duet who describes the sound of Angels Hung From The Arches of Heaven as “dark, evil, impending dread.”
Which, if we are honest, is one of the aspects fans love about Goatwhore’s work. I know I do, and this doesn’t disappoint.