Twenty years is a long time to do anything. It’s an especially impressive milestone for a band. For every Iron Maiden who seems as perpetual and unyielding as the rising sun, there are a million broken down bands that litter the musical highways. It’s especially impressive when the act in question cracking the double decade mark plays it as extreme as New Orleans’ Goatwhore. Now ready to drop their seventh full-length album, Vengeful Ascension, vocalist, Ben Falgoust took some time out from Goatwhore’s current tour with Amon Amarth to reflect on twenty years of sonic blasphemy and discuss the new album.
When looking back on Goatwhore’s career, Falgoust sees the same youthful exuberance and passion for making music that existed at the band’s outset. “For me it’s always been a passion thing,” said Falgoust. “Goatwhore is a metal band but it kind of has this DIY punk etiquette. At the start we would play the little hole in the wall, or the record store, or play someone’s house. We’ve done a lot of things since then. We’ve toured with Celtic Frost. We’ve toured with Venom. We’ve done shows with Emperor and played some cool festivals in Europe. But in the big picture there’s still so much more you can do.”
It might seem counter-intuitive to most people standing outside of Goatwhore’s inner circle to see a band as relatively successful as this one talk about what hasn’t been accomplished yet. But for Falgoust, part of the thrill of what they do is continually turning people on to their music. “Take this tour with Amon Amarth for instance,” contemplated Falgoust. “Every night I ask the crowd how many people are seeing Goatwhore for the first time and it’s tons of fucking hands that go up. It shows you how wide and varied the metal scene is and how many people might not know about bands even if they’ve been around for twenty years. There are so many bands out there and kids only have so much money. They can’t buy every metal record out there.”
When asked then about how Goatwhore fits in the current, enlarging metal pantheon, Falgoust sees a band that continues to grow with the scene. “Goatwhore started as total Celtic Frost worship,” Falgoust says with a chuckle. “That, Venom, Bathory, this is what we wanted to do. Then as we moved along other influences got thrown in there. Influences from where we live, other bands we played in, bands we grew up watching. I think Goatwhore has these certain extremities in it that appeal to fans of black metal or thrash or death metal. We get lumped into the black metal scene because of the lyrics, concepts, and visual things, and we were influenced by a lot of early black metal bands, but I think there’s more to it now and I think people are more accepting in how they see certain genres.”
Those extremities to Goatwhore’s sound are on full display on their newest release. Vengeful Ascension bounces around from thrash-infused punk aesthetics to triumphant blackened death metal. It’s all shrouded in Falgoust’s well-read lyrics that use influences as varied as Milton’s Paradise Lost and H.P. Lovecraft to weave tales of the fallen angel in all of us trying to get up off the mat after being continually knocked down. “The idea of the title comes from falling to the bottom, to nothing, and having to get back up,” laments Falgoust. “It’s a relevant thing in human life. It happens to us constantly. But you learn things on the way down into the abyss and you learn things coming back up out of the abyss. Lucifer is kind of this anti-hero in Paradise Lost. At any moment he can be destroyed by “God” but no matter what he fights and has this determination and will. There’s a connection to human nature there. Or when you watch animals in nature, they struggle to survive and can do these remarkable things at the same time. That struggle is instilled into life itself.”
The struggle is definitely real for any band to remain relevant in an ever-changing scene and world at large. But as Goatwhore continue to churn out album after album of sonic belligerence they continue to carve out a legacy that will long outlast them when they’ve finally called it a day. By the sounds of their stellar upcoming album and the looks of them obliterating stages on this current tour, that day might take another twenty years to arrive.
Vengeful Ascension is out June 23 via Metal Blade Records. It can be preordered here.
Both Eclipse of Ages Into Black and Carving Out the Eyes of God are in Chip McCabe’s just-released book, 666 Days of Metal. You can order it here.