When a band has been around for a while, sometimes they mellow out as they age, but that's not the case with New Orleans veterans Goatwhore. Their brand of metal is as extreme as ever, evidenced on their latest slab of darkness, Vengeful Ascension.

Twenty years into Goathwore's career, frontman Ben Falgoust says they are still moving forward. “I think every song on this record is pretty f--king strong,” Falgoust says. “Each song is a representation of Goatwhore. from day one until now. It really shows our evolution as a band. I don't think that this band has reached its peak yet. I mean, I think we're closer now than ever but we're still growing; we're still evolving.”

Instead of their usual bludgeoning beginning, “Forsaken” kicks off the proceedings with thunderous drums and mid-tempo riffage. That groove continues with “Under the Flesh, Into the Soul.” The harsh vocals contrast with memorable guitar lines and a blazing solo from Sammy Duet.

While the songs on Vengeful Ascension are as heavy and extreme as usual, this time around they give them more room to breathe. Instead of nonstop brutality, they'll sneak in a brief slower or mellower section before resuming their assault. Even songs that you think will barrel along at maximum intensity throughout, such as “Chaos Arcane,” dial back to an ominous pace.

That slower tempo makes “Where the Sun Is Silent” extremely effective, as does the bluesy solo from Duet. As the album progresses, the diversity is even more evident with the Bolt Thrower-esque “Mankind Will Have No Mercy” and the black metal influenced closer “Those Who Denied God's Will.”

The lyrical theme deals with the timeless battle between good and evil, with the cosmic battle applying to earthly concerns. “If you look at it from an everyday aspect in life, it's the idea of people, hitting the bottom of the barrel or you know, things just aren’t going right in life… emotion plays a huge part in how people react,” Falgoust explains.

He adds, “Whether it’s based on love or hatred or sadness or whatever, there’s always an aspect of emotion that drives people to an extent. So the whole idea of a ‘Vengeful Ascension’ is built on being at the bottom, working your way to the top, and realizing along the way that there's other facets to the journey aside from just pure retribution. Within negativity there can exist a positive angle as well.”

After working with producer Erik Rutan for the past four albums, this time around Goatwhore worked with Jarrett Pritchard, their live soundman. They wanted a sound that was raw and organic, closer to their live shows. That's exactly what they got. He managed to effectively capture their power and energy while injecting the dynamics an album needs.

Vengeful Ascension has extremity black metal fans will dig, groove that will appeal to death metal aficionados and potent guitar work thrash lovers can appreciate.

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