Goats and metal go together like macaroni and cheese or beer and pretzels. These mischievous grass munching fiends have shared a long affiliation with the dark arts, Satan, generalized evil and of course, heavy metal. Plus they have really cool-looking skulls and boast a strong track record of being paired up with various complimentary descriptors in the metal band name stakes. Sweden’s Goatess is another band raising their horns to goats, returning with their second full-length platter, Purgatory Under New Management. I missed the debut album but from all accounts it was a well received addition to the stoner-doom subgenre, and considering my own doom tastes were closely forged in the stoner end of the doomy scale, Goatess should win immediate points with their bluesy, psychedelically-tinged brand of doom. Although my listening moods can change on a dime, I must admit I’ve got a serious hankering of late for some good old doom, especially on the back of the wonderful debut platter from Arcana 13. Goatess scratches that itch nicely, taking the listener on a cozy journey down the smooth rivers of doom.
While thick stoner grooves play a prominent role, there’s also a healthy nod to the genre’s traditions, dating back to the mighty days of Black Sabbath, with one-time Saint Vitus vocalist and doom veteran Chritus Linderson pulling off a fine vocal performance and bringing his own soulful inflections to the obvious Ozzy-isms of his style. Musically the band is on point as well, equipped with fat bass grooves, busy drumming and standout guitar work that runs the gamut from thick bluesy stoner riffs to trad doom plods and slinky psych excursions, all the while keeping things ticking over with enough variations and catchy elements to remain engaging over the album’s hefty length. Long songs are common in doom, however when overdone and failing to generate enough interesting riffs and musical ideas, this familiar trait can easily derail bands with lesser songwriting chops. And though I will argue some fat could’ve been trimmed to make a slightly more palatable listen, for the most part Goatess keep their robust doom machine on course.
Opener “Moth to Flame” is the longest song on the album, cracking the ten minute barrier. Thankfully the song is a great showcase of the album’s strengths, combining all the pleasing elements of the Goatess package into one cohesive and very well-paced epic. Musicianship is dead on, and despite the melancholic vibe that permeates the album, there’s also a playfulness and cool jammy feel that makes things loads of riff-centric fun, especially when combined with Linderson’s infectious vocal hooks and melodies on standout tracks like the super catchy “Murphy was an Optimist.” When Goatess choose to grind away with one particular riff they pull off more of a trance-like effect rather than reducing themselves to boredom inducing repetition, illustrated on the hooky extended outro riff on the hard rocking “Shadowland.” Generally variables in structure and riffs are areas that Goatess have down pat.
They get downright kooky on the bizarre jam odyssey of “Crocodilians and Other Creepy Crawling Shhh…,” flashing their experimental flair. Similarly the mammoth riffs and melancholic tones of “Wrath of God” features their penchant for trippy psych detours and stoner grooves that would do Kyuss proud. Some of these dreamy passages might be too meandering for but overall they’re well executed, lending the album a trippy kaleidoscopic quality. The production is first rate, sounding rich and well rounded. Guitars are armed with a well-defined fuzzy thickness, the bass warm and cushy, while the drums are punchy and natural sounding. Linderson’s impressive vocals cut through the mix clearly and unobtrusively. Notable setbacks, that could be seen to hold the album back, include the aforementioned bloating, and though the band flirts with greatness, much of the songwriting falls short of that mark.
Regardless of doom preferences, whether you reside in the camp of stoner dudes, prefer to stick to the old school or feast on contemporary behemoths like Khemmis or Age of Taurus, Goatess has you covered. Goatess have crafted a solid platter of doomy delights and Purgatory Under New Management offers a jammy mix of doom styles with wide appeal.