Review Summary: Goatwhore is the same bayou-bred blackened death/thrash metal band that they were 15 years ago and there's nothing wrong with that.
In the world of extreme metal, there's not many acts you can consistently count on. Veteran bands frequently fall off later in their career by either having their proven formula lose steam (Children of Bodom), suffering the loss of a key member (In Flames) or just go completely off the deep end and develop an odd love for electronic music and arena-rock chants (Morbid Angel). Goatwhore does not fall into this camp as they're continuing to put out killer music well into their second decade as a band as evidenced by their sixth LP, Constricting Rage of the Merciless.
Constricting Rage of the Merciless is still very much rooted in the same death/black/thrash metal mold Goathwhore has followed for their entire career. Clearly it's not anything groundbreaking at this point in time, but it never becomes stagnant or dull, and that's really all that matters.While the record mostly sticks to this formula, Goatwhore strays from it more here than they ever have in the past. "Cold Earth Consumed in Dying Flesh" has an almost doom/stoner vibe with a staggeringly dreary atmosphere and gloomy riffing throughout. At almost six minutes in length, "Cold Earth Consumed in Dying Flesh" is essentially an epic track for a band that typically makes songs that clock in at just over three minutes. "Schadenfreude" is another track that defies the Goatwhore formula with the use of a prominent melodic guitar line. While it's certainly out of character to hear Sammy Duet lay down a melodic riff for even a second, it works surprisingly well. I would like to see Duet lay down some more of this type of riff in the future as it serves as a nice reprieve from the typical speed and unapologetic heaviness Goatwhore specializes in.
The slight experimentation is certainly a nice touch, but there's no denying that Goatwhore is at their best when they're ripping the listeners faces off. The handful of thrashers on Constricting Rage of the Merciless are amongst the most savage creations they've ever made. "FBS" and "Externalize the Hidden Savagery" feature clean, fretboard-melting solowork that sounds like its been ripped straight from the genre's heyday in the 80's while "Reanimated Sacrifice" has an almost crossover appeal with a prominent hardcore/crust edge to balance out the furious speed of the track. While all of these tracks are incredibly impressive, the crown jewel of the album is lead single "Baring Teeth for Revolt". "Baring Teeth for Revolt" is an absolute barn burner with some of the most substantial riffing I've heard in the past few years as well as a ridiculously catchy hook that's almost too catchy to appear on such an evil and fast track. Goatwhore has that rare energy level and high density of quality riffs that is needed to master the art of thrash metal. If Goatwhore was an exclusively blackened thrash band, they'd without question be as revered as current genre heavyweights Skeletonwitch and Toxic Holocaust.
Constricting Rage of the Merciless shows that Goatwhore hasn't lost even a bit of their touch after all of these years. Goatwhore may not trek into a lot of uncharted territory on this record, but that doesn't take away from how engaging and memorable of a listen it is. These guys deserve a ton of credit for grinding along for so long making blackened death/thrash metal with the same level of ferocity, enthusiasm and New Orleans grit as they were on their 2000 debut The Eclipses of Ages into Black. Goatwhore is one of extreme metal's most unheralded, blue-collar bands, and I sincerely hope that never changes.