If there is one thing you can count on in the realms of heavy metal, it’s bands creating names that fit their musical vision. Carcass definitely paints a vivid picture of death metal just nicely. And a band with a name like My Dying Bride is usually guaranteed to bring The Mope™ like few others do. So you can imagine what was going through my brain when Germany’s Goat Explosion threw their debut album, Rumors of Man, our way. Expecting a savage, cold helping of icy black metal befitting of multiple explosions of goats, I popped my headphones on, and realized these bucks were packed full of beer, cigarettes, and some dank herbal supplements prior to their violent ends via bursting to smithereens.
And this isn’t even the first band to use this name, but they’re the closest to metal of the two, so we’ll run with this.1 “Wandering Spectre” rumbles forth with some meaty, chewy Kyuss riffs by guitarists Basti and Franz, putting their best foot forward as the grooves barrel down the highway like a mean Corvette. Elsewhere, closer “Stairway Through The Sun” comes the closest to the Demon Cleaners of Sky Valley with its 6/8 swing and catchy hooks and melodies. With an album bookended by two very strong slabs of stoner metal, it would appear that Rumors of Man could very much climb the mountain and stake their claim as upcoming stoner legends.
That would be the case if there weren’t some serious issues crippling Rumors of Man. For starters, the muffled production keeps the guitars up-front and in-your-face, but the rhythm instruments lose all semblance of power and punch. Alex’s bass lines lack the thump needed to carry the groove, and Seitz’s drum fills sound quiet, with his cymbals sounding like something out of a Sega Genesis game. Basti’s vocals are another sticking point, either with his odd diction and cadence (“Stairway Through The Sun” and “Rumors of Man” being key examples), or with his warbly tonality veering him either slightly off-key (“Wandering Spectre”) or completely in another zone entirely (“Rumors of Man”). His Bobby Liebling-in-another-realm delivery can be wildly hit-or-miss.
But not as wildly hit-or-miss as the songwriting itself. Bluntly put (see what I did there?), Rumors of Man is a 44-minute album that feels 50% longer, and that’s due to the repetitious nature of the songs. “If Crimson Was My Tower” and the title track take their strong hooks and beat them into the ground. Elsewhere, “Dionysian Reveries” possesses a powerful five minutes of stoner doom riffery made impotent by over four minutes of mood-killing noodling and navel-gazing vocals preceding those magical five minutes. For each and every good decision Goat Explosion makes, they seemingly imbalance their karma by making glaring songwriting mistakes, and this is not the path to take on a debut.
If it seems like I’m being brutal on Rumors of Man, it’s because I see the potential within. The riffs, when not beaten within an inch of their lives, are catchy and heavy, and if Basti can control his voice better, he could blossom into a powerhouse vocalist. But while bands like Kyuss took the Sabbath Playbook and made their own name out of themselves, Rumors of Man feels like a facsimile of a facsimile.2 As frustratingly middle-of-the-road as it gets.