Friday 5 June 2015

Goatsnake - 'Black Age Blues' (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 02/06/2015
Label: Southern Lord Recordings

‘Black Age Blues’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Another River To Cross
2. Elevated Man
3. Coffee & Whiskey
4. Black Age Blues
5. House Of The Moon
6. Jimi’s Gone
7. Graves
8. Grandpa Jones
9. A Killing Blues

Goatsnake is

Pete Stahl | Vocals, harmonica
Greg Anderson | guitars
Scott Renner | Bass
Greg Rogers | Drums


Goatsnake are one of the names in the stoner/doom/etc canon that really inspire awe and loyalty. Having called it quits nigh on a decade and a half ago, their name has increased in stature and the band have assumed a kind of “originators” mantle for what is happening in the scene these days. We know about the members and their contributions to the metal world and we know that ‘Flower of Disease’ and their debut are regarded as classics... but I have never been a huge fan. No, really. I have their early work and listened to it on recommendation- I have just never been that bothered.

I am happy to say that ‘Black Age Blues’ has changed my views on the band to one of slight bemusement to enthusiasm. This is a fine record and easily explains their reputation as one of the foremost exponents of... what, exactly? This is not doom. It is not just “stoner rock” either. It takes in hard rock, blues, grunge-esque melodies and straight rock music over the course of “Another River to Cross” and the excellent “Elevated Man” (there is even blues harp on the latter) but all played through a filter of stoner style riffing and pacing.

“Coffee and Whiskey” packs a strong refrain and is more like a version of Cream on steroids, or some such, than Sleep. The playing is nice and loose with a meaty and raw production. The title track is moody and groovy with excellent vocals (again setting the band apart from many other contemporaries). It is weighty, of course, but this sits more alongside Masters of Reality than it does with Fu Manchu- even with the slow and doom-esque sections.

“House of the Moon” provides a very heavy opening riff that is guaranteed to get heads banging and uses an odd snare shot placement for the verse (the band excel at changing things up a little bit- just enough to make things interesting; see also the backing vocals on this one). ‘Jimi's Gone’ carries on the groove with a lovely rolling rhythm. “Graves” is as dark as the title would suggest, dropping the pace and operating on a more doomy level than the blues inflected previous track. “Grandpa Jones” is more angular still at the start but settles into a loping beat for the verses (it is kind of like the Stones played 33% slower and fed through a distorted speaker, if that is not too difficult to imagine).

“A Killing Blues” finishes the album with seven and a half minutes of rock music of the highest quality. Yes, it is Sabbathian in places, very blues influenced in others (as the title suggests- complete with lyrical references to Stagger Lee) and continues the uncategorisable nature of the album as a whole. One thing for sure, time has not dulled Goatsnake's edge- they have just picked right back up where they left off and made an excellent album. There can be no doubt that this record will feature on many end of year lists and deservedly so.

Words by: Richard Maw

‘Black Age Blues’ is available here

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