Goatwhore at SXSW 2013

Alongside all the punk, post-punk, pop, hip-hop, and indie rock, I actually got to see a lot of metal at SXSW: I started my marathon at Show No Mercy’s showcase and closed it at Invisible Oranges’. From the journalist’s point of view, the ostensible purpose of SXSW — I think? — is to be availed of new bands, to witness in the flesh what would otherwise be nothing more than digital files and hyperbole. To that end, SXSW was a great success for me: My head was blown off several times a day by bands I’d never seen before, both metal and otherwise. And afterward, when people asked me to run down my favorite SXSW sets, I named for them mostly the bands who seemed to be doing the SXSW thing — bands who were playing a dozen sets over five days, bands who came to SXSW to make their name, to have a moment, and who were, in my eyes, succeeding in that goal: Savages; Trash Talk; KEN Mode; Disclosure; White Lung; Inter Arma. (I saw more than a dozen metal bands over the course of numerous SXSW showcases, and of the acts who were new to me, none impressed me more than Inter Arma, though special mention belongs to Vattnet Viskar and Mutilation Rites, both of whom I’ve seen numerous times before, and both of whom have raised their respective games several levels over the last year or so). But if I’m being totally honest, not using any arbitrary qualifiers or distinctions, the best band I saw at SXSW was not a band doing the SXSW thing, at a show that felt nothing like a SXSW showcase.

In fact, I altogether forgot Goatwhore was performing at SXSW until I got back to my hotel room on Thursday night, crashed on my bed, and started scrolling through my Facebook timeline. I wouldn’t have gone to see them if they weren’t playing so late (after midnight) and so close by (at a bar half a block from my hotel). I was exhausted after standing for 12-odd hours of live music and not eager to go out again, but I’ve seen enough Goatwhore performances to know they weren’t going to make me regret getting up and going out to see this one. That’s the book on Goatwhore: They put on a ridiculously exciting live show. Well, not the whole book; the whole book is: They have a name so cartoonishly silly that it’s embarrassing to say out loud (I believe this is intentional on the part of the band) and they put on a ridiculously exciting live show that they’ve never equaled in the studio. THAT is the whole book on Goatwhore. And I can attest to every word. But before SXSW, I had never seen Goatwhore headlining a bill — they were always the support act, and always supporting some gigantic event: High On Fire, Watain, death-grind supergroup Lock-Up. As such, they were always playing venues that were a little too big, and a little too empty, to crowds who were not necessarily there to see them. But at SXSW, they were playing the Dirty Dog Bar, they were the last band of the night — which was good, because even if they hadn’t closed down the bar, nobody could have followed that set. Whereas most of the SXSW crowds I saw were a bit passive, tentative, curious, this one was bananas, bouncing and moshing and making out and throwing horns and spilling beer and smiling their fucking faces off. Yes, they were wasted, but they were feeding off the band’s lightning-storm energy, which was, even for Goatwhore, especially ferocious. Oddly enough (and totally coincidentally!), that very morning I had published a short review of Inter Arma’s Wednesday set, in which I wrote the following (in praise of that band’s frontman, Mike Paparo):

Most metal screamers think showmanship ends at a little corpsepaint, but go see a band like Goatwhore — whose Ben Falgoust owns the stage like a black-metal James Brown — and you get an idea just how damn much a real frontman can raise a performance.

That night, Falgoust made me proud to have written those words, and Goatwhore made me remember why a good metal show is better than any other live performance experience. I saw a lot of bands that kicked my ass at SXSW, but none other that seemed so thoroughly confident in their ability to kick ass, none other that offered so much to the crowd and received so much in return.

Anyway, this is the second installment of our monthly metal column, the Black Market, in which Aaron Lariviere, Wyatt Marshall, Doug Moore, and I compile a list of, write about, and rank the 15 best metal songs that were released over the last month. (For a full explanation of what we’re doing here and/or if you missed the first installment, go read it.) It’s important to note that this month’s list does not include new music released by any artists included on last month’s list — and simply due to the publicity cycles of new albums, many of those artists have indeed released new music that would absolutely be worthy of inclusion (including Aosoth, Inter Arma, VHOL, and Woe). We also left out any mention of the new Kvelertak album, maybe my favorite record of 2013, because we’ve covered it at insane length in other places on Stereogum. We wanted to avoid redundancy, to talk about something new, to dig deeper. Join us.

Michael Nelson

(The above photo of Goatwhore’s Ben Falgoust was taken by me at the Metalsucks SXSW 2013 showcase at the Dirty Dog Bar and run through the Darkthone filter on Instagram.)

15. Voices — “Dnepropetrovsk”

Location: UK

Subgenre: Death/Black Metal

Among the UK’s horde of genre-busting metal groups, Akercocke were one of the weirdest: a catholic (but far from Catholic) hodgepodge of death metal, black metal, prog rock, tongue-in-cheek Satanism, high fashion, and lurid sexuality. Akercocke petered out after 2007′s Antichrist, leaving behind five LPs that range in quality from okay to spectacular. Two of the band’s core members, drummer David Grey and bassist Peter Benjamin, have now picked up where they left off with a new band called Voices. Most of Akercocke’s weirder foibles — the fancy clothes, the titty-mag album covers, the murky recordings — have vanished with former frontman Jason Mendonça. The core ingredients remain, in streamlined, modernized form. “Dnepropetrovsk” — after the eponymous serial killers — stars a twitchy slide lick that somehow manages to achieve earworm status despite its lack of any recognizable melody. From The Human Forest Create A Fuge Of Imaginary Rain doesn’t come out in the US until June, but it’s already available in the UK if you feel like shelling out for an import. [Candlelight] — Doug Moore

14. Witch In Her Tomb — “X”

Location: Illinois

Subgenre:Raw Black Metal/Punk

I’ve previously likened Witch In Her Tomb’s sound to a machine gun and a jackhammer, and I’m not sure I’ll come up with anything better. Witch In Her Tomb plays a blistering brand of insane punk-influenced black metal that’s so noisy it buzzes, so ugly that when melody comes in — as one does, in a playful way, at the end of “X” — it’s as if the band’s had a momentary mood swing. “X” is the last song on an upcoming three-song 7″, Maleficus Maleficarum, and “X” is the 10th song in the band’s catalogue. The previous nine are likewise Roman-numerically and sequentially named; “I” through “V” are available to download for free from the band’s label, Crippled Sound, and “VI” through “X” are streaming over at Invisible Oranges. [Crippled Sound/TYR] — Wyatt Marshall

13. Csejthe — “L’antique Blason”

Location: Quebec City

Subgenre: Epic Medieval Black Metal

Quebec has become as reliable a place as any to find quality black metal these days, and bands like Monarque (see below) and Forteresse have formed a solid core that’s leading a no-frills, old school rebirth up north — more proof that cold lands breed good metal. Add to their ranks Quebec City’s Csejthe, a band that shares members with Monarque and Forteresse and is named for the castle in which Countess Elizabeth Bathory ended her life bricked up in a set of rooms as punishment for murdering hundreds of girls. On “L’antique Blason,” Csejthe delivers hum-worthy epic medieval black metal — think battle music, with a mid-paced rhythm section chugging along behind guitar leads that quickly become anthemic. Once this one gets going it doesn’t let up, and it fittingly just fades way, double kicking into oblivion. [Eisenwald] — WM

12. Hate Meditation — “The Genocide March”

Location: Chicago

Subgenre:Black Metal

Earlier this month, Blake Judd told me his longstanding, groundbreaking black metal project Nachtmystium was on hiatus. A few days ago, though, he posted on Facebook that he’s “working on writing the new Nachtmystium record. Have skeletons for three songs already …” Irrespective of the state of Nacht (or for that matter Twilight), this year will bring Scars, the full-length debut from Judd’s new project, Hate Meditation, which features Judd on vocals and guitar alongside Leviathan’s Wrest on bass, Job Bos of Dark Fortress on synth, and Sam Shroyer of Vitandus on drums. Judd has made available one track from Scars, “The Genocide March,” which finds him delving deep into the roots of second-wave black metal, matching the minimalist bleakness of Burzum’s early albums with the dexterity and dynamism of Emperor’s 1994 classic In The Nightside Eclipse. “We intentionally went for a more ’necro’ sound on this album to capture the raw nature of the music,” Judd told me. “I really went out of my way to do my best at making this NOT sound like Nachtmystium at all.” At that, in some regard, he’s failed: His compositional choices — hyperspeed rhythm on the verses; slow, epic builds on the chorus — recall the similarly sturdy constructions of his very best work; and his scorched voice, even run through a new set of broken effects pedals, remains expressive and vast. [Indie Recordings] — MN

11. Gevurah — “Flesh Bounds Desecrated”

Location: Montreal

Subgenre: Black/Death Metal

Black/death, or blackened death metal (or in its stupidest form: deathened black metal) is a funny little genre. (In before the lock: purists will note THERE’S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT BLACK/DEATH, just ask Black Witchery.) Obviously rooted in both black metal and death metal, what was once a hybrid style has since congealed into a genre all its own. Some folks call this stuff “war metal,” but that term denotes such a specific thing we can’t really include bands like Gevurah — they’re so mysterious (i.e., no press photos) we don’t know if they actually wear bullet belts. (War metal pretty much requires bullet belts.) That’s the interesting thing about Gevurah: They’re essentially complete unknowns, birthed by the fertile Montreal metal scene and unearthed by the great Profound Lore, which is as much a stamp of quality as anything these days. You’d be correct in assuming they absolutely rip. “Flesh Bounds Desecrated” comes from the band’s debut EP Necheshiron, and it’s a blasphemous little blast of hell. [Profound Lore] — Aaron Lariviere

10. Entrails — “In Pieces”

Location: Sweden

Subgenre: Death Metal

I have this theory about old-school death metal: You can’t really play it right unless you were there. Even if you replicate the style’s superficial features, you can’t capture its spirit unless you lived through its heyday. Twenty-odd years on, many DM bands that formed in the late ’80s or early ’90s continue to release lively material; their many young imitators tend to sound oddly flat in comparison. Entrails are an excellent test case for this effect. The band formed in 1990, wrote most of their first record, and then disbanded without ever putting it to tape. Guitarist Jimmy Lundqvist resurrected the group in 2009 and finally recorded Tales From The Morgue in 2010. Now on their third album, Entrails are still putting young knockoff artists to shame. Compared to more progressive DM styles, Entrails’ stoic traditionalism bears a remarkable resemblance to pop music. Underneath the beastly Dan Swäno production and Jocke Svensson’s huge growl, “In Pieces” features a shout-along chorus atop borderline danceable (and definitely moshable) rhythms. Perfect for blasting, banging, and bashing. [Metal Blade] — DM

9. Monarque – “L’appel De La Nuit”

Location: Quebec, Canada

Subgenre: Black Metal

Back to Quebec City! Scene mainstay Monarque has kept busy over the years, churning out 17 releases (counting EPs, splits, and compilations) in eight years. “L’appel De La Nuit” is a rerecording from a previous demo, and this time it’s cleaned up and all the more powerful for it. You’ll hear some influences from early masters here — think Mayhem, Emperor, Darkthrone, et al. — with the hazy, icy atmosphere that’s characteristic of great French black metal bands like Celestia and Mütiilation. “Pure regal wrath” seems a fair way to describe Monarque’s sound, one in which epic melodies mesh seamlessly with the furious drumming underneath. Monarque may not be rewriting the rules of black metal, but they’ve mastered what their forefathers laid out.
[Sepulchral Productions/Les Productions Hérétiques] — WM

8. Immolation — “Kingdom Of Conspiracy”

Location: Yonkers, NY

Subgenre: Death Metal

The opening riff cracks like rifle fire, drums launch into staggering motion, bassist/frontman Ross Dolan growls something loud and scathing about oppression and infernal conspiracies, which is a nice change from rote bible bashing. Immolation have been playing this kind of death metal (moody, angular, inventive) so long they make it look effortless, even as they continually refine their attack — 25 years of touring, writing, and recording has ground away the rough edges, leaving all blade and no bullshit. Gone are the strange detours and dead-end riffs of years past; in their place we get dark, dense melodies and a churning groove that shifts beneath your feet. Immolation specialize in that kind of movement beneath the surface. Subtlety goes a long way in a genre known for anything but. [Nuclear Blast] — AL

7. Imperium Dekadenz — “Striga”

Location: Germany

Subgenre: Black Metal

Metal bands pour the vast majority of their limited temporal and financial resources into crafting their music. It’s no surprise they subsequently neglect other aspects of the presentation at times. This month’s worst offender may be the tacky cover for Imperium Dekadenz’s Meadows Of Nostalgia, which is saying something given the competition. (I’m looking at you, Immolation and Svart Crown.) Its centerpiece — an elderly hiker, dressed in 19th-century clothing and lovingly rendered in crappy Photoshop sepia — doesn’t exactly scream “soaring, fist-pumpable black metal,” but that’s exactly what Meadows Of Nostalgia delivers. At close to 10 minutes, “Striga” is epic in both scope and feel; its guitar progressions move with a stately mountaintop grandeur common both to ID’s countrymen Nagelfar and to Swedes like Dissection and Dawn. The reverby but loud production gives the tune an arena-sized sense of scope. Straightforward melodic black metal doesn’t get much better than this in 2013; stream the whole thing over at Terrorizer. [Season Of Mist] — DM

6. Moss — “Horrible Nights”

Location: England

Subgenre: Doom

There’s trickery at work here. Black magic, maybe, if the album cover is any indication. With organ drones, thick-ribbed riffery, and big clean vocals, “Horrible Nights” comes off as doom metal done the old-fashioned way, the British way. If doom metal, in the purest sense, is just blues played painfully slow and exceptionally loud — as accidentally invented by Tony Iommi and his downtuned SG — this is the modern equivalent, and it’s not quite what Moss are known for. Albums past saw the band playing looser, nastier stuff — more like drone-based amp worship, raw screams, and loose guitar structures buried under peals of feedback. Here, for the first couple minutes, at least, we’ve got classic heavy metal thunder, the stuff of strength and majesty. Then it goes to hell. The Moss of old comes screaming from the depths around the 5-minute mark, and what was powerful turns sour — horrible, and horribly good. It’s a hell of a trick. [Rise Above/Metal Blade] — AL

5. Svart Crown — “In Utero: A Place Of Hatred And Threat”

Location: France

Subgenre: Death/Black Metal

Over the last 15-odd years, France has produced some of the world’s most challenging black metal. Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, two French flagship bands, have pushed the genre into new realms of earsplitting dissonance and complexity — too far, those attached to the traditional virtues of structure and melody might say. Such folk would do well to check out Svart Crown. This band grafts their countrymen’s warped melodies onto a burly rhythmic frame taken straight from the venerable American death metal band Immolation, who also made it into the Market this month. Svart Crown have stepped it up big time on their third effort; Profane has a youthful snap that beats out even Immo’s newest. “In Utero” is a perfect example — good luck getting the strutting groove riff that starts at 3:30 out of your head. So good that I don’t even mind the hideous, NSFW cover. [Listenable Records] — DM

4. A Pregnant Light — “Glint, Glimmer, And Glow”

Location:Grand Rapids, Michigan

Subgenre: Experimental Black Metal

One bonus of being a one-man band is that you don’t have any “buddies” around telling you what you can and can’t do. A Pregnant Light, population one, has over the course of eight releases in roughly two years gone from playing black metal to crust punk to brooding alt-rock and back again, and in the process avoided some of the clichés of one-man black metal. (An example? The band’s unofficial color is purple.) “Glint, Glimmer and Glow,” A Pregnant Light’s latest from the band’s split tape with the power electronics project Deeper Wells, goes from mellow and bluesy to raucous ripper on a dime and wraps up in just over two minutes. In typical APL fashion, furious, pained vocals are in the back, buried underneath swarming guitars and enthusiastic, raw drumming. It doesn’t fall neatly into any subgenre, but “awesome” works in a pinch. [Colloquial Sound Recordings] — WM

3. Agrimonia — “Talion”

Location: Sweden

Subgenre: Swedish Death Metal

When the first wave of American musicians got their hands on the “Gothenburg Sound” — the style of crunchy, fuzzy, melodic death metal made famous by a million Swedish bands from Entombed to Arch Enemy to In Flames — they fused it with screamo, created a genre called “metalcore,” did brisk business at Hot Topic, and forced upon us deep cultural fissures that can never be healed. Not since Warrant had metal been so embarrassing to the metalhead! But over the past few years, the Gothenburg sound has been reclaimed by the likes of American producer/Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou, who has found new life in the HM2 pedal working with artists such as Trap Them, Kvelertak, and Black Breath, among many others. Still, it’s nice to hear actual Swedes doing something with the sound that isn’t either a retread or a misstep. Agrimonia features Martin Larsson of death metal gods At The Gates and Pontus Redig of rad crust-metallers Martyrdöd (both are also connected to Swedish crustpunks Skitsystem) playing a style of melodic metal that feels like it could not have been born anywhere but Gothenburg. In a good way! “Talion” is cleaner and more expansive than anything produced by At The Gates or Martyrdöd, but the sharp hooks sink deep over the song’s 11 minutes, as it varies styles and tempos, never losing direction or force. The vocals are delivered by Christina (no last name, apparently, per the band’s quote-unquote bio), who guides the richly layered guitars with a harsh, blood-raising roar. [Southern Lord] — MN

2. Cough — “Athame”

Location: Richmond, VA

Subgenre: Stoner/Sludge/Doom

Patience is a virtue. Embrace that shit any way you can — turn your vision inward and meditate, smoketh the pot if that’s your thing, maybe slug some sizzurp — and suddenly Cough’s sluggish chug makes perfect sense. “Athame” comprises one whole side (that’s 18+ minutes) of Cough’s latest release, Reflection Of The Negative, a split LP with fellow Richmond residents Windhand, who also rule hard. This is the stuff of long-form nightmares: a quarter-speed crush of Satanic samples, tortured screams over buried clean singing, and a plain-spoken chant urging ritual suicide. If that sounds like fun, come join the party. (Don’t mind the blood.) [Relapse] — AL

1. Altar Of Plagues — “God Alone”

Location: Ireland

Subgenre: Industrial/Experimental/Post-Black Metal

Over the course of two full-lengths and a handful of EPs, Ireland’s Altar Of Plagues established a singular identity for themselves as purveyors of epic, labyrinthine post-black metal. AoP were always capable of delivering innards-jellying assaults, but they were just as frequently apt to explore post-rock passages initially charted by the likes of Sonic Youth or Slint. Or … heck they’d fuck with pretty much anything: Roughly 25 percent of their last album, 2011′s triumphant Mammal, is devoted to an almost purely ambient number built only of soft feedback howls and the chilling sounds of a woman “keening” (i.e., a centuries-old Irish funerary lament). So Altar Of Plagues have never been bound by the parameters of their genre, but on the first song to be released from their forthcoming third full-length, Teethed Glory And Injury, the band seem to have left behind even the rich terrain they spent years developing and occupying. Before hearing a note of “God Alone,” you know it’s not likely going to resemble AoP’s earlier work: It clocks in at 4:25; prior to this, the shortest song released by the band since 2009 was nearly twice that long — 8:17 — and even that is unusually short by Altar Of Plagues’ standards (60 percent of their songs recorded during that same period extend past the 13-minute mark). Furthermore, there’s little about “God Alone” that might be described as “black metal,” regardless of how many micro-descriptors you line up in front of those words. “God Alone” has a pugilistic, caustic bleakness that recalls the industrial death metal made by New York City’s Flourishing or genre forefathers Godflesh. That’s not to say AoP have completely abandoned their approach to songwriting — “God Alone” shifts gears several times, from punishing blitz to spacious drift, opposing textures juxtaposed in much of AoP’s material — but the overall effect here is more compressed and immediate, though no less thrilling. [Profound Lore] — MN

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OTHER STAFF PICKS:

AARON:
Bongripper – “Zero Talent
Hod – “When The Ghouls Feed
Howl – “With A Blade
Speedwolf – “Speed Wolf
Zombiefication – “At The Caves Of Eternal

DOUG:
Fulgora – “Artifice
Semantik Punk – “Jest To A
The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Prancer
Combat Astronomy – “Kundalini Dub
Pig Destroyer – “Red Tar

MICHAEL:
Jute Gyte – Discontinuities
Pallbearer – Untitled new song
Survival – “Tragedy Of The Mind
Vreid – Welcome Farewell
Zozobra – Savage Masters

WYATT:
Absolutist – “Pain
Barghest – “Thought Disease
Quincunx – “Commit To Black
Sentimen Beltza – “My Beautiful Misery
This Station Of Life – “Equation Of Time

Comments (5)
  1. Nice selection for the month. I recently just crossed paths with cassette releases by Monarque, A Pregnant Light and Witch In Her Tomb… all stellar. REALLY into APL though. The Altar of Plagues track (and video) are also great. Always excited for their music. And the Windhand/Cough split is sure to kill, got that one coming in the mail.

    • Thanks! Right now the APL track is my favorite on this month’s list, I think. We’ve got a Band To Watch feature on him coming up in the next week or two. APL (and Colloquial Sound in general) is some of the best stuff happening in metal at the moment.

  2. Moss! Oh my god, thank you!? Why have I not been made aware of this band previously!? :) This is incredible. And of course it’s on Rise Above. Does Lee Dorian ever sign bad bands? Damn! Off to check out more of their stuff…

    And the new AoP is great too…

  3. Awesome stuff. Like last month it’s taking me over two hours to listen to and check out all the bands I’m less familiar with (not that I’m complaining)

  4. On Friday, 14th East of the Wall, Pushmen, So Hideous and Black Table will be playing at Spike Hill for the Northside Fest
    Doors at 7:00
    Cover $5.00
    Spike Hill 186 Bedford Ave BK NY

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