Goatsnake Band 01Goatsnake was originally formed by veterans of seminal doom act The Obsessed, and though they’ve rattled around since 1996, they haven’t been the most prolific crew in the doomiverse. With only two albums and a few EPs to their credit and their last full-length dropping way back in 2000, they would already be relegated to a footnote in the Big Book of Doom if not for how righteous early works like Goatsnake VolI were, and the sheer number of bands ripping off their sound. After an eleven year drift through limbo, something motivated three fourths of the original lineup to rejoin forces for their long-awaited third album, Black Age Blues, and boy, was that the right damn decision! This is a two-ton mass of heavy stoner doom with enormous backwater NOLA swagger and an authentic southern fried sensibility, borrowing the best elements of Crowbar, DownFloodgate, Kyuss and Clutch, while maintaining a unique identity. It’s also one of the more infectious and fun doom outings you’ll hear this year. A fun doom album, you say? Madness!

And yet it’s true, as slobberkocker opener “Another River to Cross” ably demonstrates. After some country western acoustic noodling, the main riff stomps forth to convert all non believers. It’s the kind of riff Black Sabbath invented but it still manages to sound pretty fresh and vital. The huge bluesy swing and shake to the music hooks you right in for the swamp crawl ahead, and Pete Stahl’s soulful croons sell the music like a fire and brimstone preacher. This one is a strong contender for Song o’ the Year and I can’t stop spinning it.

Things remain highly infectious with “Elevated Man” as it shotgun marries ponderous riffs with memorable vocal hooks and a noticeable Soundgarden vibe mixed with what is an obvious homage to Sabbath‘s “The Wizard,” complete with harmonica lines. At first blush “Coffee and Whiskey” seems like a silly throwaway tune, until you realize you can’t remove the chorus from your head, and it sports a jubilant Blue Cheer influence. Around the album’s halfway point, the band starts to incorporate backing vocals from Dem Preacher’s Daughters, who give the southern-styled doom an even greater dose of old timey boogie, reminiscent of a Baptist revival meeting or a backwoods hoedown. The slow motion destruction of “House of the Moon” benefits from this odd addition as the Daughters chant along in the background like a supporting church choir. The same can be said for the rocked out swing of “Jimi’s Gone” and especially the grinding “Grandpa Jones,” where things really take on the feel of a bizarre church outing.

Goatsnake Band 02

The album runs a concise 47 minutes and the band wisely kept most songs to judicious lengths, with only a few running over the five minute mark. This makes the material much more digestible and accessible, even to non-doom fans. That isn’t to say they couldn’t have trimmed a minute or so from longer cuts like the title track and closer “A Killing Blues,” but overall, the writing and arranging is quite remarkable and the album is an effortless joy to sit through.

Greg Anderson’s guitar playing really shines from start to finish, with a plethora of huge, tooth rattling doom riffs wisely balanced with more rollicking rock leads. Sure, he robbed the oft-sacked crypts of Sabbath, but he took all the right bones and that makes all the difference here. As Anderson is laying waste with fat riffs, Stahl’s vocals provide the honey and moonshine. He has a pleasant and powerful voice with just enough edge and muscle, often sounding like a more versatile Kyle Thomas (Floodgate, Trouble) mixed with a slightly less aggro Danzig. He’s adept at sounding plaintive and exasperated when necessary and more upbeat and hopeful when the tunes go in that direction. Scott Renner’s bass is also a big part of the sound, acting like a second guitar at times and filling the gaps with a rich low-end rumble.

Unfortunately, the production is a bit too compressed, and while it definitely gives the guitars a huge impact, a bigger dynamic range would really bring out the full palate of what these guys are doing. You can’t have it all though.

This is another happy surprise for 2015 and I’m stoked to see Goatsnake rise from the ashes with such a strong dose of southern stonage. Black Age Blues makes it seem like they were never gone and certainly proves they’re still relevant in 2015. If you’re hankering for a new Down or Crowbar album, this may just do the trick. Welcome back boys.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Southern Lord
Websites: goatsnakesl.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/pages/Goatsnake
Release Dates: EU: 2015.06.01 | NA: 06.02.2015

 

 

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  • El_Cuervo

    I’m not a huuuge fan of the vocals but Elevated Man has such a groovy lead, I love it!

  • Al Tatts

    Great band. Vol 1 is a classic.
    Must get this.

  • Luke_22

    Excellent band and a welcome return. Flower of Disease is a personal favorite of mine, so very pleased they have made such a strong comeback. They definitely still have the fire in the belly…and lots of good riffs to boot.

  • Excentric_1307

    Oh. My. Goat. I am getting this on Vinyl just as fast as they’ll take my money.

  • Wilhelm

    Does he really mention Krispy Kreme at 3:05?

    • Yes. Yes he does. Yum!

    • Celaeno

      I’m a little behind on my reading, but I’m so excited to get home and give them my money. The Krispy Kreme comment just makes me happier. Doom face!

  • Francesco Bordoni

    Great review, ooooooh boy, I have been hopelessly waiting for this!That embedded track has some serious non-euclidean balls, can’t wait to check this one out!

  • Pumpy Pumples

    I always thought Stahl had an Ian Astbury tinge to his vocals. Even back in WOOL and Scream I hear it. The Goat is back!

  • Norfair Legend

    Goatsnake and Crypt Sermon makes me a happy boy, this sounds amazing cranked up with the windows down. Rolling up to a red light, looking over at the car next to you with you doomface on.

  • Hmm, normally a 4.0 rating here piques my interest and I want to like this, but the embedded track sounds like every other Sabbath-esque retro doom band. Does the rest of the album get better?

    • I’d spin “Elevated Man” and “Jimi’s Gone” to get more of a flavor of the album.

  • Krispy Kreme. Ohmygod. Its like sex in my mouth.

  • Tentacles

    I know. I am late. Still, I think I like this even more than Crypt Sermon. ROTM? It is for me…I am listening to the title track now and there are even moments where the vocals sound a bit Layne Staleyish…sure takes me back…

    • I still like Crypt Sermon better but this is a more rocked out, fun doom album.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Keep your ears open the next time you head down street for a pint gentlemen! Real Good this!

  • This is flat out a lock for my top album contender this year. I cannot stop listening to it over and over, it is ridiculous. Between this and Obsequiae I haven’t touched much else. Tempel and Vattnet Viskar are both awfully fine and then theres that Royal Thunder…

  • antitayyip

    The Boats of the Glen Carrig is on the way… these guys will learn how good doom metal should be

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Kind of like if Ian Ausbury/or Jimmy Hendrix sung for Black Sabbath.