Big, important shows are a Hell of a time. Seeing Tom. G. Warrior perform Hellhammer songs with Triumph of Death at Maryland Deathfest last year? Yeah, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime event. Getting to finally hit a Metallica concert, and it happens to be a headlining slot at Lollapalooza? Buddy, you better believe that’s quite the occasion. Sure it takes skill and dedication to actually pull these shows off in these settings but what impresses me even more is when a band can make what in theory is a pretty ordinary show feel like a landmark event. No giant stage setup, no full album playthrough anniversary set, no big reunion, no wild festival headline slot…just a band on the road playing their songs. If a group can make a regular set at a normal club feel like the most monumental performance of their lives, that’s the hallmark of a band worthy of being called mighty.
On paper, Goatwhore’s show in Bloomington, IL at Nightshop (4/24/23) could have been pretty much another stop on the tour. Take a look at how often Goatwhore hits the road and it’d be relatively easy to imagine that a small city in the Midwest, at a tiny venue no less, could feel like a case of rinse-and-repeat for New Orleans’ most Satanic musical export. That being said, Monday night’s show is going to be a tough one to top this year, no matter how many concerts I hit up.
As mentioned above, this was just another night for Goatwhore. They were on tour supporting the legendary Eyehategod as they celebrated 30 years of Take as Needed for Pain but you’d never know they weren’t headlining the biggest show of their lives from the way they were on stage. Pretty quickly after launching into opening number “Chaos Arcane,” it became rapidly clear that Goatwhore doesn’t half-ass anything. From what I can gather, this is pretty much par for the course for the group and a great reason for you to go out of your way to see them in a live setting.
If you’ve never seen Goatwhore live, and this was my first time, you get pretty impressed with how into everything vocalist Ben Flagoust gets. I’ve seen plenty of videos online of the band playing live but until you’re there, with Falgoust rasping Satanic vocals right into your eyes, there’s no real way to prepare for just how dynamic the frontman is. Falgoust spent the night high-fiving audience members, pumping his fists, and genuinely brimming with excitement to play his music for us. I cannot even imagine how many times the band has played songs like “In Deathless Tradition” or “Baring Teeth for Revolt” but from the energy the band put out all night, you’d think they just wrote all the songs and were stoked as Hell to finally get to play them live for the first time, instead of the 500th (or whatever) time they’d been played.
From where I was standing, bassist extraordinaire Trans Am was maybe a foot from my head and I spent a good chunk of the night dodging his headstock (although part of me must admit to being a little disappointed that I didn’t come away with a war wound of sorts, at least now that I’m out of the danger zone). Behind Trans Am, the man behind the kit, Zack Simmons, beat the living shit out of his drums with ferocious intensity to match the rest of his band’s energetic antics. Needless to say, Simmons, and the whole outfit for that matter, left a lot of sweat on the stage that night.
Handling axe duties, as always, was the otherworldly Sammy Duet. Before we go further, I should probably come clean and say that Duet is my favorite living guitarist in all of metal so getting to see him live isn’t something that I can be totally objective about. That being said, sweet Satan can that man play! You never know 100% how much of something is studio trickery and how much is actual mastery of an instrument. With Duet, there’s absolutely no doubt that it’s definitely the latter. Watching him pull off his solos mere feet from me was chill inducing and honestly one of the most memorable moments I’ve had at a show in a long time. That my wife got a pick from him just made it all the cooler of an experience.
The band’s set was a solid mix of their whole career, with Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven being the most represented album. That was fine with me (it was the Metal Plague Album of the Year for 2022 after all) and the rest of the crowd didn’t seem to mind either. In general, this was one of the most raucous crowds I’ve seen in quite some time. When the band stopped to take a breather and get some water in them between songs, the rest of us damn sure took a minute to regroup too.
The band being as locked in and energetic as they were definitely helped fire the audience up but a lot of the excitement speaks to the power of Goatwhore in general. This is not a band for the mainstream (being named Goatwhore should be kind of a dead giveaway on that front), the trendy crowd, or the churchgoing. Goatwhore is for the outcast, the weirdo, the kid who fucking hates having thier mind and creativity stifled by religous bigots. For many of us, Goatwhore shows are our Sunday service, songs from Blood for the Master our hymns, Sammy our Hell’s high priest, and Ben our Satanic Pope.
When you live in a Midwest farm community, you’re gonna be the class, town, or workplace weirdo if you’re into a band called Goatwhore that doesn’t give two shits about your sky god. For many of us last night, this was probably the most like-minded people we will be around in one setting all year. That’s fine with me. I was poisoned with religion as a child before finding my way out, mainly through bands like Goatwhore, Deicide, Slayer, and Darkthrone and would certainly rather live an authentic life than change myself in order to appease anyone who thinks saying fuck will send you to Hell. Bands like those I mentioned give fans like me something to connect to, something to look to and say, hey, I might be fucked up and hate this church shit, but I’m not the only one.
From what I could tell, most everyone else at Nightshop felt the same as me. We were there to see a band that we probably all (or mostly all) have someone in our lives that would tell us we are going to Hell for liking. If the crowd is anything like it was last night, and the music is at all like the mighty Goatwhore, I gotta say that Hell is going to be one fucking rager of a party. See you suckers there!
Check out their tour dates here.