Goatsnake| ‘Black Age Blues’
It’s very nice to have Goatsnake back.
They were always one of the finest of the Sludge / Doom crowd.
The inspired vocals of one Mr Pete Stahl helped set them apart, as did the inspired riffage of Greg Anderson, who delivered primal rock ‘n’ roll fury with Goatsnake in way that was far removed from his drone endeavours with Sunn O))) etc.
Goatsnake’s two full-lengths were fantastic examples of soulful yet mind-numbingly heavy rock. Filthy, with a tone to die for andslick, dead-eye killer vocals – there’s no arguing with tracks like ‘Innocent’ and ‘Easy Greasy’.
It’s fair to say that their relative obscurity, tucked away as a Man’s Ruin oddity (‘Flower of Disease’ came out in 2000, believe it or not), has allowed this one to come along without any particularly towering expectations attached to it.
Ole’ Timey Darkness
Stahl hasn’t aged a day. Joined with choral vocals during opener ‘Another River to Cross’, he sounds as fired up and on-the-button as ever. His lyrical skill gets its first airing with ‘Elevated Man’, the first real banger of the record.
Throughout the album, there’s an old timey sense of darkness that the band successfully invoke.
From the congregational, female vocals that occasionally bleed in from the sonic fabric,to the cautionary tales of Joe Soaps turning outlaw, to that old evolutionary ‘debate’ in ‘Elevated Man’, the band aren’t afraid to draw from a well of Southern angst. It really works.
It’s the commanding power of Stahl’s voice that simply takes over the narrative. Infused with conviction and simmering menace, he’s very much in control. It’s testament to his skill that we can get blasts of harmonica and it just sounds all the more grim.
The Urge To Simply Rock
There’s no two ways about it – this is a collection of songs written by a band that are confidant and in-control of their style as ever.
Not an iota of the pitch-black crunch has gone either, as the trapped-in-a-cement-mixer intro to ‘Graves’ proves. The urge to simply rock, like on ‘Coffee and Whiskey’, is very much there, but even that has the uneasy sense of pitch-black addiction lying just under the lyrical surface.
The majority of these tracks would sit proudly alongside the band’s older material. Given the gulf of time (a fairly hefty 15 years), that’s no mean feat.
Hopefully ‘Black Age Blues’ will introduce this band to those who missed out the first time. There’s a simple rocking beat that underpins a track ‘Grandpa Jones’, with the vocal refrain “You can’t decide what to do with your life…” being utterly devastating in its simplicity. Something like that is just hard not to enjoy.
There’s darkness in these here songs. Some absolutely crushing guitar too.
This is best enjoyed at high volume with vaporous spirits. Overall, chalk it up as a very satisfying return, and make sure to dig in and enjoy that lyrical feast.
4.3 / 5 – Lorcan Archer ::: 01/06/15