Afghan Haze, He Was A God
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Rampaging into their 25th year as purveyors of the most ruthless extreme metal, Goatwhore return with perhaps the strongest album of their storied career. Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven is 47 minutes of their trademark blend of death, black, thrash and sludge metal delivered with breathless intensity and an unrepentant bloodlust, making for one of the most thrilling records to come out of 2022. "I would describe this record as being very raw, but clarity is shaped within the chaos," states vocalist Louis Ben Falgoust II. "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."
With 2017's towering Vengeful Ascension their last full-length, the combination of a great deal of touring, personal commitments, and the global pandemic made the gap between records a little longer than usual, though this is certainly not to Angels Hung From The Arches Of Heaven's detriment. When time and opportunity allowed the quartet worked on new ideas as often as possible, the first writing for this record dating back to 2018, and they rarely throw anything away. "It is an ongoing process and sometimes things come off fresh and some things are remnants of past songs/ideas that weren't used because they hadn't found their place just yet," says Falgoust. "Just because something doesn't fit or work the first time around doesn't mean it won't work out later on, so we don't really trash anything. We can have a whole new song, but somewhere in it things aren't going just right, and then an older part resurfaces and it was the piece of the puzzle that makes it come together. Riffs are timeless!" Featuring beasts such as the savage "Born Of Satan's Flesh" that thrashes along relentlessly and drips with evil, the old school crossover flavored "Death From Above" with its guttural chorus, and the epic, chilling title track that is as haunting as it is heavy they cover a lot of sonic territory, everything having that signature Goatwhore feel while constantly doing something a little different. "We have always been very influenced by many aspects of heavy metal through our lives," explains Falgoust. "In saying that, I feel that the music speaks for us on that concept. We have a very varied mixture of styles within the extreme metal genres. These all come to the surface on each song." And with guitarist Sammy Duet describing the sound of the record as "dark, evil, impending dread" he is certainly not wrong - there being very little light to cling on to.
The title of the record - like all Goatwhore releases - is both deep and direct, Falgoust knowing exactly where he is coming from. "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, the record is a mixture of concepts, and the words are written to fit the song style. If it is more of a straightforward song, then a more straightforward approach is taken with the lyrics, and the same applies if the song is more complex, intense, or deep. "Some pay homage to older things that influence us, 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 lot to offer on these ideas, so the pot is always bubbling with new influences." Falgoust certainly draws from a wide range of such influences, with "Death From Above" 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. "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'." Then there is the multifaceted title track, on which Falgoust ventured into an idea of emotional despondency within older texts and writings, feeling like 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. 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 of Judas and Jesus, 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, 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." The band also invested greater meaning in the visual aspect of the album through the use of sigils that were created by longtime collaborator Jordan Barlow. "We give him an idea and then he just goes with it. 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."
Teaming up with producer Jarrett Pritchard (Exhumed, 1349) for a second time, the band - with new bass player Robert "TA" Coleman on board - knew they were in good hands, tracking primarily at Studio In The Country in Bogalusa, LA under pandemic restrictions. Praising Pritchard as a great person to work with both in the studio and a live setting, the relationship was bolstered by their time together. "He really has a good vision of what we are doing and trying to present. He is very knowledgeable in many aspects of both recording and live sound, so his input comes from a solid place. While recording he tests you and forces the best performances out of you. Not in a bad way, just that he knew what each person could do prior to us entering the studio, so he had this level of expectation to push each one of us to our own individual performance levels." The band also recruited producer Kurt Ballou (Converge, High On Fire), their first time working with him, which also was to the record's betterment. "Kurt actually brought a lot to the table," says Duet. "He had some opinions on a few of the song structures, which was a first for us because we never had an outside ear giving ideas. And, I mean the sound of the record speaks for itself."
Reaching a quarter century anniversary is a good time to pause and reflect on what has been achieved, and Falgoust is philosophical. "It has been a rough road, but looking back and reminiscing on the things we were able to do musically and touring wise, it has been very much worth it. You get so caught up in the touring and releasing albums cycle that every now and then you have to step off the momentum and just see what has been done. When you do get that opportunity, then the entire vision opens up and you really get to see the scope of accomplishments, and that is when every little piece comes together and the realization of the things you have done hits you."
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