Review – The Whorehouse Massacre: Altar of the Goat Skull / VI

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Review – The Whorehouse Massacre: Altar of the Goat Skull / VI
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The Whorehouse Massacre: Altar of the Goat Skull / VI
Drone, Funeral Doom Metal, Sludge Metal
Transcending Obscurity International Distribution
February 20th, 2014
Release length: 45:21
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It’s unknown how long ago British Columbia, Canada’s The Whorehouse Massacre first came together exactly, or the identities of its members. The underground Drone and Funeral Doom Metal act that has now become a two-piece outfit first started releasing demos back in 2005, issuing four before their 2008 full-length The Whorehouse Massacre IV. Since then, more demos were issued, a split, a live album, and three EPs between 2012 and 2013. For 2015, the duo have started working with Transcending Obscurity International Distribution to issue a compilation of the two most recent releases of that latter category (VI. and Altar of the Goat Skull), all to act as an introduction for their impending second full-length album. But, if you missed out in the first place, does this collection of material actually warrant you to take notice, or is more damaging than beneficial?

The Whorehouse Massacre are not some kind of flashy, high-grade band, and they never have been. What you get on this compilation is exactly what the group has churned out before: Raw, analog performances that can sound more like they were recorded during a rehearsal than in a studio. While this concept typically works for the styles the band dabbles in, it doesn’t quite capture the necessary mood or atmosphere needed to make a lot of these tracks work for the first of the two EPs. Everything there comes through pretty dull and distant, often removing the bite of the Funeral Doom Metal aspect of their material quite a bit, even when played at louder volume levels. Thankfully, for the second EP, the instruments have a little more bulk behind them.

If you ever heard early Mortician recordings, you’ll have a good idea as the how the raw sound is early on. “Indignation” has a slow groove that is heavy on the distortion for the guitars. Even the growling vocals add a little more intimidation to the mix. But then you dive into “A.C.S.-4”, and it all sounds incredibly clunky, not to mention kind of like a degraded instrumental version of the previous track to where any eeriness that existed actually sounds more upbeat than anything. “A.C.S.-3” is about the same as far as quality goes, but the twang of the bass guitar is pulled up a little more, allowing the riffs to introduce a bit of Sludge Metal to the mix, as if the score to a swamp in the deep south somewhere sans the banjos.

But, what’s left from the Altar of the Goat Skull EP ends up quite the mixture of catchy to dull material. The EP’s title track is fairly memorable thanks to the burdening performance that paces itself well within the confines of the Funeral Doom Metal style, while “The Black Coast” carries itself like an epic the likes of early Doom Metal bands would have churned out. The problem with the latter is that those glorious hooks sound a bit barren overall, not to mention just seem to never go anywhere thanks to a lackluster Drone approach. It isn’t until three minutes of the same riffs and drum patterns that we are finally met with some growling vocals for a little more variety. The guitar solo about a minute later, however, is a nice touch that adds a little extra emotion to the moderately depressing composition.

But then you have the VI. EP, which is nearly the polar opposite in audio quality. While it still comes off more on the analog side of things, the instruments come through far more crisp, especially the drums which sounded almost lifeless on the previous release. The hostility of the group also manages to be captured, accentuated with that rich buzzing and static noise that usually compliments early Doom Metal material, or that can be found accompanying any revival act in the genre, such as Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. This approach also incorporates not just more atmosphere in comparison as well, but the sense that we are now dealing with a professional band and not just some group of kids recording in their mother’s garage or bathroom. This would be a step up if the IV. EP didn’t pre-date the Altar of the Goat Skull EP.

But one of the most notable aspects of this EP’s cuts is a sense of intimidation, and even drug abuse. “Bowels of Hell” ends up a well paced track that doesn’t resort to droning on with simple, uninspiring riffs. In fact there’s a subtle psychedelic touch at work through most of the song, which becomes far more obvious when the nightmarish guitar solo kicks in around the two minute mark. The same goes for the even shorter “End of Mankind” all around, though the solo later on has more of an over-the-top Black Sabbath feel that mixes the narcotic haziness with distinctly grand chords. But then you have “The Temples of Perdition”, which is just a generally miserable song that can remind listeners of the environment “The Black Coast” carries, but sometimes more aggressive.

One last thing worth mentioning about this compilation is that the songs are presented in a way that is meant to leave very few gaps, if any at all, between them. This isn’t such a problem during the VI. tracks, and, in a way, it helps keep the tension alive for the most part. Early on though, it does become rather jerky due how different the analog output ends up per track on the Altar of the Goat Skull EP. Of course, when comparing track lengths, this doesn’t really seem to do much at all for the final product, as all the songs are about the same length, if not maybe a second shorter.

In one compilation, The Whorehouse Massacre goes from sounding like a bunch of kids screwing around in their parents basement with a tape deck, to sounding like a professional Doom Metal group in what basically was a few months between releases. Truthfully, even though the last few songs that compose the VI. EP really are good, a few even memorable, it’s incredibly hard to sit here and say it’s worth picking up. The atrociously bland audio that makes up Altar of the Goat Skull, which is over half of this release, leaves very little to keep you engaged, or even awake sometimes given how boring some compositions end up coming across due to the incredibly lo-fi audio that leaves nearly every song from that initial release completely uninspiring and diluted to say the least. But, if you are still considering adding this to your collection, I strongly suggest you check out either the Transcending Obcurity or The Whorehouse Massacre Bandcamp pages, as both have this comnpilation streaming (the latter being the original versions of both EPs). Hopefully the next album falls more in line with VI., as that is really the only reason to even consider picking up this compilation.


01. Indignation – 2:39
02. A.C.S.-4 – 1:56
03. A.C.S.-3 – 1:39
04. Buried in Darkness – 3:14
05. Altar of the Goat Skull – 3:54
06. The Black Coast – 6:02
07. Sewer Dreams – 4:13
08. Big Mouth – 3:56
09. Bowels of Hell – 3:15
10. End of Mankind – 3:11
11. Sassy Pants (Sloth cover) – 3:24
12. The Temples of Perdition – 5:59
13. Sob Story – 1:51
Initial Pressing Score: 4/10

The Whorehouse Massacre
The Whorehouse Massacre

Digital review copy of this release provided by Transcending Obscurity International Distribution.