Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review of Goatsnake's Black Age Blues

Goatsnake only released two full-lengths and a couple EPs in their brief heyday but they've gathered a sizable following in the doom metal community due to shared members with groups such as The Obsessed and Sunn 0))). The group reunited in 2010 and has finally gotten around to releasing their first full-length album in nearly fifteen years after a series of sporadic live shows. A new bassist in the form of Scott Renner (Not to be confused with Scott Reeder) is along for the ride but things are still looking pretty familiar in Goatsnake territory.

For the most part, Black Age Blues picks up right where they left off. Guitarist Greg Anderson is still running the best Iommi and Victor Griffin riffs he can come up with through a heavy blues filter and lead singer Pete Stahl still puts in a unique croon that is somewhere between Robert Johnson and Bobby Liebling with smooth harmonica to match. However, the band's overall approach seems to have gotten more laid back as its members have grown older. The guitars haven't gone soft but the song structures still more laid back and the vocals have an aged quality that adds to the bluesy touch. The backing vocals by Dem Preacher's Daughters also keep things interesting and act as a doomy answer to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Honkettes whenever they pop up.
The songwriting also works well and offers a good deal of variety to go along with the memorable riffs and vocals. "Another River to Cross" and "Grandpa Jones" mix drawn out choruses and heavy swinging riffs though the former feels like it could be a bit longer after such an epic intro. Elsewhere, "Elevated Man" has a trudgy groove to it, "Coffee & Whiskey" has an aggressive yet infectious hook, and "Jimi's Gone" has another interesting swing to it. There aren't too many dark moments but these are the sort of blues stomps that are damn near impossible to hate.

Goatsnake's comeback may not be revolutionary but it is a reminder of their unique place in the doom metal scene. Blues has always had its influence present in the genre but not many bands pull it off to such an authentic degree and their experiences only accentuate the assertion. Hopefully they'll stick around and develop even further with future installments.

"Another River to Cross"
"Elevated Man"
"Jimi's Gone"
"Grandpa Jones"
"A Killing Blues"

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