Goatsnake - Black Age Blues - (9/10)
Published on May 15, 2015
Cali stoner overlords return with a vengeance.
What with the likes of Kyuss, Eyehategod and Acid King all either reforming or releasing new music following extended periods of inactivity, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Goatsnake too would decide to jump back in the fray. Easily the most accessible and hard rocking of Greg Anderson’s various bands/projects, Goatsnake’s alchemical mix of rumbling Nola sludge and the smooth super-grooves of West Coast desert rock is custom built to get your noggin’ noddin’, particularly if you’re a drifter or deadbeat dad that really just want to rock out with your bong out (or drink from brown-bagged 40s while skulking outside the local convenience store).
While never above getting all down ‘n’ dirty in the swampy cesspits inhabited by the Eyehategods and Weedeaters of this world, Goatsnake’s take on that Sabbathian low & slow aesthetic has always leaned more towards the fun than the fetid, as it were. Their first full-length of new material in 11 years, Black Age Blues sees the core line-up of Pete Stahl (vocals), Greg Anderson (guitars), Guy Pinhas (bass) and Greg Rogers (drums) knocking out the same deeply satisfying blend of stoner rock and doom that made 2000’s Flower of Disease so enjoyable—and they don’t take their collective foot off the pedal for the entire 47-odd minutes of the album. Opener “Another River to Cross” does the dinosaur-stomping-through-the-woods thing so well one almost expects Lee Dorrian to start wailing over these Cathedral-size power chords (pun most definitely intended). A rollicking start indeed, the band grafting Sabbath/Crowbar riffs onto Kyuss grooves on the one-two punch that is “Elevated Man”/“Coffee & Whiskey”—both songs benefiting hugely from the sense of melancholia and urgency derived from Pete Stahl’s uncanny ability to channel Layne Staley by way of Ian Astbury. It’s a pleasure to hear them taking riffs that hark back to something like Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “It’s So Easy” on “Coffee & Whiskey” and twisting them ever so slightly – imbuing a rather straightforward rock song with a bubbling tension that is impressively caustic. The aforementioned Staley vocal influence works wonders on this particular song (especially the semi ‘drawling’ parts).
They fire on all cylinders like the decade plus absence never occurred, and while the band’s decision to steer the album into pointedly darker waters towards its second half may seem questionable at first, it pays off on a song like “House of the Moon”—the band feeding the Alice in Chains and The Cult influences alluded to earlier through a doom filter and making it stick. It’s pensive stuff, for sure, and a bit of a departure from the opening slew of tracks, but Stahl gives it soul, Anderson gives it balls and yes – the band’s beloved harmonica is on hand to give proceedings a subtle rootsy vibe that fits like a glove. Speaking of the harmonica, it’s a shame they didn’t utilize it more throughout the album, but so be it. All things considered, the only two songs that really drag on a bit would be “Graves” and “Grandpa Jones,” but by the time they rolled around the band had already done more than enough to leave no that they are back, and in a major way! The best Goatsnake album your coin can buy, period.