Goatwhore - _A Haunting Curse_
(Metal Blade, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (
If, like many of cyberspace's laconic keyboard-warriors, you subscribe to Euronymous' theories on what constitutes true black metal and what doesn't, then chances are that the very idea of combining black and death metal makes your hair stand on end. After all, given the late Mayhem guitarist's thoughts on his perceived commercialisation of the latter genre, it would amount to heresy to taint the "trve" with something so bovine -- and yes, let's admit that it's a combination that has only rarely been pulled off successfully. Yet, by the same token, I can confidently state that for an album's worth of truly dark, menacing and sinister extremity, you need look no further in 2006 than Goatwhore's third effort -- the last Darkthrone platter included.Naturally there will be some who'd read that last sentence and cry blasphemy, but while those umbrageous souls reach for their dictionaries and prepare to fire a barrage of hate-mail my way such as my inbox has never seen, the real news here is that _A Haunting Curse_ finally makes good on the promise that's been dormant in the band since their inception. Where _Funeral Dirge for the Rotting Sun_ and _The Eclipse of Ages Into Black_ both had their fair share of highpoints, their tendency for nostalgia over creativity proved to be their Achilles' heel. On the occasions when all the elements in their corrosive blend did come together however, the effect was nothing short of pulverizing.So it is with _A Haunting Curse_ -- only this time, the peaks are the rule rather than the exception. There's no "Whiskey Funeral" or "Graveyard Slut" here. Nor indeed do Goatwhore waste time pissing about on the same idea for five minutes, as Satyricon repeatedly did on _Now, Diabolical_. From the moment that "Wear These Scars of Testimony" shakes the record into motion with a riff that smacks of old school black metal, the New Orleans quartet are on form, and remain so for the duration. Bolstered by Erik Rutan's finest production job to date, songs like "Bloodletting Upon the Cloven Hoof" and "Forever Consumed Oblivion" flit effortlessly between genres -- blending ominous strains of melody with resonant blasts, and slower grooves that seem custom-made to tattoo themselves on the listener's brain. Rutan's death metal influence comes to the fore vividly on "My Eyes Are the Spears of Chaos", while on "Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult" the band demonstrate why they've regularly been compared to Celtic Frost. The difference is where before the end-product was merely the sum of their influences, now they serve as the muse -- distilled to form part of an entirely more unique and focused beast.In the end it makes any arguments over what's "trve" and "untrve" completely irrelevant. Besides, black metal is only a part of what makes up the Goatwhore composite, and _The Haunting Curse_ is one of this year's essential albums no matter what your metallic poison of choice tends to be.
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