Goatwhore is a band that cares as much about what the mainstream thinks as can be expected from a band that named itself Goatwhore. For the past 25 years, vocalist L. Ben Falgoust II and guitarist/vocalist Sammy Duet, along with a variety of skilled drummers and bass players, have been making their own unique brand of extreme metal, crossing the worlds of thrash, death, and black metal into a wholly unique package that is readily identifiable as Goatwhore and only Goatwhore. During those two-plus decades, the band has released eight records of Satanic brutality to enthrall fans and piss off Christians everywhere. Their most recent offering, Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven, is not only their most experimental record to date; it ranks amongst their best work, if not the singular best album of their career.
To make Angels Hung from the Arches of Heaven, Goatwhore did things outside of the usual way for them. First, the forced break of the pandemic gave them more time to sit with the material than they usually had. Next, the band recorded in what Duet described as the first real-deal studio of the band’s storied career. Topping it all off, Duet and the boys took more risks musically than you usually hear on a Goatwhore album, while maintaining the classic sounds that we’ve all come to know and love over their previous releases. Duet was nice enough to chat with me on the phone recently about the creation process for the new record and what fans can expect from the next quarter century of New Orleans’ most famous Satanic extreme music outfit.
I gotta start by saying congrats on the new record, it’s a hell of a piece of music. When did you start working on it?
Sammy: We started working on it probably around 2018. It’s been a long time [laughs].
How was the writing and recording process for it?
Sammy: It was good. Like I said, we started working on the stuff in 2018, just started culminating ideas and stuff. We were gonna take off 2020 to refine everything but we went on an extended vacation as everyone saw so it was actually kind of a good thing in disguise, because it gave us more time to actually focus on the record and just really hone in on what we were trying to achieve.
As far as the recording process, it was fantastic. We recorded it at a studio in Louisiana in Bogalusa, Louisiana called Studio in the Country, which is this legendary studio that we have that I had no idea existed in Louisiana. It’s like an hour-and-a-half away from where me and [vocalist] Ben [Falgoust II] live. It was a fantastic studio. We took a tour of it and it was great, and it’s this legendary studio. I think Kansas, when they had their big hit record with “Carry on Wayward Son” and stuff was on it, they recorded their album there. It was really cool because the studio was actually built from the ground up to be a studio. It wasn’t a converted space or anything, so back in the ‘60s or ‘70s when they laid the concrete slab for the building, it was designed to be a recording studio so that was the first time we’d ever been in a space like that that was, from it’s initial inception, designed to be a recording studio rather than like, a warehouse or something that was converted into a studio. We tracked it with Jarrett Pritchard and then Kurt Ballou mixed it and they both did fantastic jobs.
Yeah, I wanted to ask about Kurt Ballou. How did he get involved and what did he bring to the table?
Sammy: We wanted to work with him on the last record, Vengeful Ascension, but scheduling and stuff like that…it didn’t work out unfortunately but we were real big fans of Kurt and Kurt’s work so when we got the opportunity to work with him on this record, we jumped at the chance immediately. We were like, yes, book him to do this record now! He had some ideas on some of the song arrangements and some of the ideas for some of the riffs. It’s always a welcome thing when you have an outsider’s ear because sometimes you become so obsessive about the songs that you create that you kind of, not really lose focus, but kind of become comfortable with it and just get so used to hearing it a certain way that maybe a set of outside ears can hear it a different way and give you different ideas. He definitely brought that to the tables as well. He was hearing some of the demos and just like try this or try that and just some ideas within the arrangements and with some of the riffs and stuff. The mix speaks for itself. He knocked it out of the park. He absolutely smashed it.
Speaking of new faces, this is the first time you guys recorded with Trans Am [Robert Coleman] on bass. What did he bring to the recording of this one?
Sammy: Robert has been a very old friend of ours, we’ve known him for at least…man it’s been a long time we’ve known Robert! He was a friend of the band and had another band he was in, Hod, before he was in Goatwhore. They were located in Texas and we would play with them almost every time we would play out in the San Antonio area so that’s how we got to know Robert and we just became fast friends.
The guy that he replaced, James Harvey, had to leave the band for his reasons or whatever. It’s no bad blood or anything. He was having a kid and he had a good job and was just like, I can’t tour and do the band stuff full-time anymore because I have these responsibilities now. You know, life happens so he stepped out but it’s all good. He still helps write some music every now and then but then we were thinking, who are we gonna get to replace James? We didn’t want to get some stranger or some guy that we didn’t really know and just have to get to know him, and he might be some kind of weirdo or something like that or it might not work out and there be some kind of attitude problem. We figured we’d give Trans Am a shot and he came in and everything worked out perfectly. There were no conflicts, personality wise, with any of the band members with him. We all get along like brothers.
For sure. You want that good player but you also want someone that you’re not going to hate spending months in a van with.
Sammy: Absolutely. I’m not gonna name any names but we’ve definitely had some bad luck in the past with that kind of shit [laughs].
Where did the new album, Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven, get its title from and what does that title mean to you?
Sammy: Well, Ben brought the title to the table. He had the song actually written and that was the title. That was the title of one of the songs and the song turned out so fantastic that we said why don’t we just name the album after this song and just have it be the title track? What it means, to me, is pretty self-explanatory. When you say Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven, there is no grey area. You kinda know what it means right off the bat. It’s very blunt and to the point.
Being named Goatwhore and with the titles that you guys have and your imagery, do you still get pushback from religious groups when you come to town in different places?
Sammy: Not really. We haven’t had that in a very long time. In the beginning, we had some shit that happened but I think, actually speaking of which, we’re talking about San Antonio, Texas where Trans Am’s band Hod was from, we were doing a show, this was a long time ago, man, I think this was before or right after the first record had been released. We were playing this show and there were Christian protestors across the street protesting the show and it was pretty funny because they had this smoking area outside, this little patio, and the maniacs that were there were throwing beer bottles at the protestors; it was pretty awesome! Nowadays it doesn’t really happen at all anymore.
I was kind of curious about your background with that type of stuff. I grew up in a religious household, which I think drew me more towards Satanic bands and imagery as I got older. What drew you towards the more Satanic aspects of music and culture?
Sammy: I was the same way. I was brought up in a very religious household. My mother started off as a Catholic and she started getting into the Pentecostal stuff where they speak in tongues and all that crazy stuff…hold snakes and if this snake bites me, I’m not gonna die because God loves me or whatever…that crazy stuff. She would force me to go to these fucking churches with her and shit, and I guess that has a lot to do with me rebelling against that, you know? It’s other things [too]. I remember when I was young, the first time I saw a pentagram I didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t just a five-pointed star, it was in a trapezoid and I remember seeing this image when I was maybe seven or eight years old and I was like, “I don’t know what that is” but it was like a magnet. Ever since then I’ve always been drawn to the occult for some reason.
Plus it’s a natural fit for metal.
Sammy: Oh yeah, absolutely. What’s more fun than singing about our lord and master Satan?
Back to the new record, it feels a little more melodic at times and there definitely feels like there’s more experimentation on it than previous records. Was that something you are actively trying to do or was that just how it played out?
Sammy: It just kinda happened that way. When you’re sitting around for a long time just dwelling upon these songs, which I was stuck and COVID hit and I had nothing else to do but write music basically…I guess it was a natural progression to where I just, for lack of a better term, I got bored [laughs] and I just started experimenting with a lot of different kinds of riffs and melodies and stuff like that. I think that has a lot to do with it, just me sitting around with nothing else to do but focus on this and kind of try to take it to the next level without shying away from our sound too much. There’s definitely a lot of experimentation on this record compared to the last ones and what [that came from] was just a lot of time sitting with the songs and trying to push them even further without overdoing it.
When you brought those different sounding pieces to the guys, were they pretty receptive or did they need convincing?
Sammy: Actually, they were real surprised and totally into it. I wasn’t really expecting [that]. I wasn’t really sure with a couple of the songs on the record that they were gonna make it or if they would meet quote-unquote Goatwhore criteria. When I was starting to bring the ideas to the rest of the guys, they were like this is amazing, this is great, we love where you’re going with this. I was like, cool cause I wasn’t entirely sure if you guys would dig it or not [laughs]!
That has to be a good feeling of validation when they like those things you took more of a risk on.
Sammy: Yeah absolutely cause there’s a fine line that you shouldn’t cross sometimes. A lot of bands do that to where they experiment but they take it a little too far left field rather than kinda just stay where they’re at and add different flavors.
Going off that, is it harder now with so many albums behind you to not repeat yourself but to keep that Goatwhore feel to the songs?
Sammy: Yes, it’s extremely difficult because the first batch of songs that I wrote for this record were kinda in that idea to where it sounded almost too much like Goatwhore, and I know what it entails to sound like Goatwhore, but I don’t want to repeat myself cause there are so many bands out there that just take the easy way out of oh, this is what the fans expect and this is what works and we’re gonna stick to this. I never want to take that attitude. I always want to try different things and evolve the Goatwhore sound.
I imagine the longer you go on it’s harder to walk that line.
Sammy: Yeah but it’s all about thinking outside the box a lot of the times and just being very hyperaware of when you are repeating yourself.
Lyrically, I know Ben writes most of those but what did you want to explore on this one in your lyrics?
Sammy: Ben has his own thing going on [but] the lyrics that I wrote for the record are really, I hate to use the word dark…dismal is a good word to describe them. It’s not so much of how evil I could’ve been, but it was more of a subconscious thing of being in the isolation of the COVID thing and all that stuff. The lyrics that I wrote are really dismal. That’s really the only way that I can describe them.
Was that process of writing those lyrics cathartic for you then?
Sammy: A little. It was just real hard times for me at that point. A lot of bad shit was happening to me when that hit. I’m still kinda dealing with it but I’ll be all right.
Other than that, did COVID have much of an effect on the creative process for this one?
Sammy: No, I was constantly writing during COVID because I had nothing else to do. It’s not like I sat on the couch depressed eating a fucking pint of ice cream and potato chips and binge watching the fucking Tiger King or something, you know? I was just constantly trying to keep my mind occupied instead of just being bummed out about it.
Speaking of COVID, what was it like when you guys did finally get back on tour and playing shows again? Was it almost weird to be doing it after a long break or did it feel natural again pretty quickly?
Sammy: It was fantastic; I’d been waiting for that for a very long time. I think all of us felt the same way to where we just couldn’t wait to get back on stage. That’s what we do. I consider us to be a live band first and a studio band second. That’s what we do and we were all just chomping at the bit to get back on stage and it was just right back to where it was when we left off. The crowds were definitely more intense after the pandemic, I definitely see that. I guess a lot of people maybe took it for granted, live shows, and then when they came back the crowds were just at full force. The fans were there being maniacs, more than usual.
Talking about a few of the tracks on the album, “Born of Satan’s Flesh” is a killer song. What was the inspiration for that one?
Sammy: The opening riff for that song I had for a long, long time. I believe we were even still working on it for Vengeful Ascension as part of a song that just got dissected. That first riff was an idea I had been kicking around for a long time and finally everything just kind of fell into place around it. The lyrics are based upon an old horror movie called Blood on Satan’s Claw. It’s an older [movie]. I believe it came out in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. I was watching a lot of horror movies while I was writing this record and I was watching a lot of really old horror movies. We didn’t really have a title for that song [at that point] so to use it as a working title that we could reference, I just called it “Blood on Satan’s Claw” and I guess Ben just took the idea and ran with it.
Being the season for it, I have to ask: what are some of your favorite horror movies?
Sammy: Number one on the list, without a doubt, would be Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things from . That is definitely number one. That is, still to this day, my favorite horror movie of all time. I’ve been watching all kinds of good stuff [lately]. They recently just put Salem’s Lot in its entirety online so that was pretty awesome. I remember that I was a big fan of that when I was a kid so to rewatch it was fucking awesome. That is still one of my favorite vampire movies of all time. I’m going back and rewatching a bunch of old horror movies that I watched as a kid that I haven’t watched in a while. One I watched the other night is another great horror movie that is so underrated is An American Werewolf in London. That is a great one. Another one, sticking with werewolves, is one I discovered recently that I missed out on is Werewolves on Wheels. That’s a great one as well. There’s another one that I discovered during COVID is called Viy and it’s one of the first Soviet Union horror movies and it’s amazing.
How did “Death From Above,” the track about the all-female Soviet bomber unit in WWII come about? That’s a really cool idea for a song.
Sammy: Ben had been kicking that idea around since, I believe, Constricting Rage of the Merciless and I guess he never really found the right song or refined [the lyrics] until we got the music for this new record and it just fell into place and felt like the right song to use those lyrics on.
How about the inspiration behind “Voracious Blood Fixation?” I really dug that one too.
Sammy: That’s a more rock ‘n’ roll one. That one I was listening to a lot of Clandestine by Entombed while I was writing that song so I think that kind of reflected a little bit on the music. It’s just a blackened rock ‘n’ roll song that’s just heavy.
You guys always have really cool covers and this one is no exception. Who did the cover and how much direction did you give them?
Sammy: The guy that did the cover is the guy that did Blood for the Master, Constricting Rage of the Merciless, and Vengeful Ascension. He did our last three records and is a guy named Jordan Barlow and he’s a good friend of ours. We’ve known him for years, obviously, and we just give him an idea and he just kinda goes with it. What’s really cool about this one is that the first idea he had, he wasn’t really into it. It looked cool but he was like, I don’t know, I can do better than that so he came out with this, the idea we have for the current cover, and he just knocked it out of the park. The idea behind it basically, and the only thing I’m going to give you on the cover and I’m gonna leave the rest up to interpretation, is the ten of swords. The ten of swords within the Tarot deck is never a good sign. That’s all I’m gonna give you. I’d like everybody to just draw their own conclusions when it comes to the album cover.
How important is that process to you, getting a good album cover? I feel like album covers are always an important part of a release but too many times bands fall into the trap of repeating themselves or just going with something generic.
Sammy: It’s very important. We want our covers to be very distinct. We don’t want it to be this mass of bodies and stuff and blood and all this crap. We want it to where, when you see it, it’s very symbolic. When you see it from a distance, you know what it is rather than you kind of have to zone in on it and figure out exactly what’s going on in it. We want our covers to be very distinct and symbolic.
That’s kind of what I think sometimes with covers too. How many times can you see forty corpses and it still feel original?
Sammy: Yeah, there are so many covers out there that are amazing when you get close on them but when you see them from a distance it’s just a mass of a mess, you know?
So what do you want listeners to take from the whole experience of this particular album?
Sammy: I want to inspire them to be serial killers.
Going along those lines, is there a better time to be releasing this album than right before Halloween? New Goatwhore and Halloween just feels like it lined up perfectly to me.
Sammy: It did. We always tend to…it kind of works out like that where the majority of our releases are kind of close to a holiday, which is weird. I think the last two records were released on Valentine’s Day or something like that. It’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate this time of year by releasing this album during this time of year.
Last question I have for you is that we are at 25 years of Goatwhore. Does that ever feel wild to you to think that you’ve been at it with this band for so long?
Sammy: It doesn’t seem like 25 years to be honest. I guess [it’s] that old saying time flies when you’re having fun. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like 25 years; it feels more like 10 years so I guess it’s a good thing that it doesn’t feel like we’ve been together for 50 years being that it’s only been 25 [laughs]. Hopefully we’ll have 25 more. I’ll continue to do this as long as I’m physically able.
Any goals for those next 25 years?
Sammy: To get heavier and more evil and darker.
Band photo at top by Stephanie Cabral.