When an extreme metal outfit secures a loyal following, there’s no need to upset the applecart — even if the apples are as rotten and decomposed as the bodies littering their lyrics. Slayer, Cannibal Corpse and Cradle of Filth learned this lesson over the decades. And New Orleans-based Goatwhore are embracing the same don’t-fix-what-isn’t-broken approach for their sixth album Constricting Rage of the Merciless, which offers yet another skillful hybrid of thrash, death metal and black metal with touches of southern rock and atmospheric doom.
Once again, vocalist L. Ben Falgoust II grunts like Celtic Frost’s Tom G. Warrior, snarls like Satyr of Satyricon and roars like Morbid Angel’s David Vincent. Guitarist Sammy Pierre Duet compliments Falgoust’s savagery with riffs that move smoothly from one metal subgenre to the next. Music played with such speed and ferocity tends to blur together, but whether they’re chugging like a finely tuned engine or grinding like a piece of old industrial machinery, the band sounds crisp and clear, thanks to production by ex-Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan. Every unconventional chord, dissonant arpeggio, cutting guitar fill, echoing cymbal crash and down-tuned bass note is sharp and audible, giving the album the feel of Florida death metal records recorded at Morrisound Studios in the early ’90s.
The pristine sound emphasizes the viciousness of Goatwhore’s lyrics. In “Reanimated Sacrifice” Falgoust gleefully and audibly shouts, “maggots penetrate the avulsing skin,” and in the Venom-esque “FBS” (“Fucked by Satan”) he sings about a “ritual of lust” in which “the blackened sky begins to open up, spilling blood on bare bodies.”
That’s some of the band’s lighter fare. Elsewhere, the subject matter is so excessive it’s desensitizing. Even if it’s all an illusion, like the fabricated atrocities of a horror movie, Goatwhore aren’t breaking character, remaining completely grim-faced as the world collapses around them.