GOATWHORE - “Who Needs A God When You’ve Got Satan?”

June 26, 2009, 8 years ago

Aaron Small

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Louisiana’s GOATWHORE are Carving Out The Eyes Of God. That is the title of their new album – the second for Metal Blade and fourth in total. Given the sadistic nature, it’s somewhat surprising to hear vocalist Ben Falgoust say, “It really wasn’t extremely stressful. I think the reason is, we stepped back a little bit and felt it out more. Sometimes you write and you kind of force things – with A Haunting Curse, we wrote for speed. There was a lot of grinding speed parts in it. For the new record, we decided to sit back and let it be black and roll (black metal mixed with rock ‘n’ roll).”

The three-year gap between albums has resulted in a definite departure from the “black metal” sound. Guitarist Sammy Duet has a crisper guitar tone and the thrash influences are more prevalent. “Definitely,” agrees Ben. “We don’t want to carbon copy anything, but we do want to keep what Goatwhore is. It can shift a little bit, but not a huge jump. The whole black metal label stuck to us and the modern regimen of black metal looked at us like, black metal is keyboards and face paint. But we embrace the traditional black metal like CELTIC FROST, VENOM and BATHORY. We even incorporate angles of bands like MOTÖRHEAD, DISCHARGE and DOOM, even early JUDAS PRIEST. We are still sort of a black metal band, just not in the light of what everybody sees it as today. Like Sammy said when we were working on it, ‘we need to be light on the black, heavy on the metal.’ Now instead of it being something metal, it’s metal. That’s what it’s about. A full metal band.”

There’s a new weapon in the Goatwhore arsenal – Sammy is playing guitar solos for the first time ever. “Hell yeah! That weapon is sick as hell. The whole thing is a weapon in itself. That’s just the extra bombs that go off when we’ve got everything in close perimeter. Sammy took it upon himself. We were writing songs and he had ideas for some solos. I thought it was pretty fucking cool ‘cause it’s totally different. It opened it up a little more and it shows his skill as a guitar player. I give applause to Sammy, Zack (Simmons - drums) and Nathan (Bergeron - bass). They all did an amazing job! They worked together really well. They’ve got a really good formula going. I commend them. A lot of people say I talk like I’m not in the band. But I’ll walk into the room and they have a song written. So in a way, it’s almost like I am a fan. When I get to put the lyrics over it, it makes it that much more enjoyable ‘cause I’m singing for a band that plays fucking sick music! That’s part of what gave me the idea to let this record breathe a little more before coming in with vocals. Let the riff roll through people’s heads so they can get into it and enjoy it a little more before the vocals make an impact.”

Wicked imagery is instantly invoked upon the mere utterance of the title, Carving Out The Eyes Of God. Yet the album cover is rather basic – a skull and scythes. Ben reveals that, “Sammy came down on me pretty hard before this record. He didn’t want someone else doing the cover art. He wanted me to do the layout so it would look like our t-shirts – simplistic, black and white. He felt it represented us more. So that’s what we went after. It puts the focus on the band. The title, Carving Out The Eyes Of God, as far as the song goes, that was the first song we completed for the record with vocals. I came into the room and said, I want to call this one ‘Carving Out The Eyes Of God’ and it was all thumbs up immediately. From that point, we were in the studio and trying to think of a title (for the album). We needed to call it Carving Out The Eyes Of God. The way it projects, it’s ferocious. It’s pretty blunt. It wasn’t something I was perceiving as far as the title, but it fit perfectly.”

Emblazoned on the skull is the seal of Lucifer - a symbol that has appeared in all of the Goatwhore albums. Ben explains that, “Sammy brought it to me way back in the early days of the band. He wanted to utilize it in the artwork and t-shirt designs. Then we put it everywhere. It’s always been a reference point for us. AKERCOCKE used it before. I think DIMMU (BORGIR) or CRADLE (OF FILTH) used it as well. But it’s come to the point where we’ve used it so much, that people associate it with us. It’ll be on the next CD cover in some fashion as well. It’s our Eddie.”

Undeniably, the best and most controversial lyric on the new album is found in ‘Apocalyptic Havoc’ – “Who needs a God when you’ve got Satan?’ “I’ll take credit for that,” quips Falgoust. “It just came up. That song lyrically is more traditional, along the lines of Venom. It covers the familiar idea of Armageddon, with a little zest added. It takes it to the terrain of hell running the regime and not the whole Four Horsemen thing. When I was putting the lyrics together, I had to work that line in somehow. You know I don’t do chorus, verse, chorus. I don’t repeat myself. Sing-a-longs are pretty odd for Goatwhore, but that line is something people can connect to. I didn’t see it as that much, but Sammy definitely saw it. It’s definitely blunt, in your face and thought provoking, just like Carving Out The Eyes Of God. It makes you reflect and can give you different ideas. Your imagination can roam.”

Thematically, Ben seemingly returns to the same well in ‘The All-Destroying’, which contains the line, “Let the blood flow from these wrists” and in ‘This Passing Into The Power Of Demons’, which features the lyric, “Loss of faith bleeds from sliced wrists.” “To an extent. I have a fascination with suicide. Not personally wanting to kill myself, but I’ve read books on it. I’ve had friends in the position before. Indirectly, ‘Provoking The Ritual Of Death’ is written about using the idea of suicide to delve into the world of the dead to conquer it and come up above and conquer everything. Suicide is of dark realms. It was used in art through time and it has different meaning in different cultures. The idea of blood flowing is life flowing out of your body through wrists – or being injected through wrists.” On the surface, ‘Razor Flesh Devoured’ appears to be the obvious slitting your wrists song, yet it’s not. “No, it’s very deceiving. It’s more of a painstaking way of dealing with the structures of organized religion and everything that goes with it. I take a lot of Biblical things and pun it, just because I can. The Bible is basically stolen ideas from other civilizations.”

Turning to the recording and production of this album, GOATWHORE went back to Mana Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida to work with Erik Rutan again. This is the second time for Goatwhore and the third time for Ben as the last SOILENT GREEN album, Confrontation, was tracked there. “We all keep each other on our toes, and Rutan does as well. Going back to him made it comfortable. We know each other and we get along. We butt heads of course ‘cause he’s the producer and we’re the band. But we can speak to each other outright. It’s not like there’s this new producer and we don’t know how he’ll react? He might feel criticized and go into a tirade. We can kid back and forth with Rutan. We can try different things ‘cause he’s open about it. We’ll try it his way and our way. Whichever one turns out better is the one we’ll use. But we’re not too comfortable to where we can lax and let things go. There’s still a lot of strictness there as far as your performance. Rutan is in the band at that point because his name is stamped on as producer. So if he puts something out that isn’t good quality, it’s going to make him look bad. He’s definitely going to bust your ass to make sure you do something good, so his all-out result is really good.

The final track on Carving Out The Eyes Of God, ‘To Mourn And Forever Wander Through Forgotten Doorways’ is very different from all that precedes it, thereby giving closure and showing another side – musically and vocally – to Goatwhore. Ben speaks as opposed to singing in that song. “Sammy and I had a little battle about that. Nothing bad. It wasn’t like a fistfight or anything. But he was set on that being a vocal song. I was set on it being more epic and guitar-orientated. I told him, just let me do this and watch how it turns out. He really thought it needed a bunch of vocals because it’s open and slow. It didn’t need anything crazy. You already went through a whole record that totally crushes your skull, so you get to an end that heals everything up.” Kind of like your stitches? “Yeah, exactly. I couldn’t have said it better myself. That’s perfect - the stitches to the wound. It’s the actual ride in the ambulance after the whole beat down.”

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