Review Summary: Goatsnake return on a solid note.
There hasn't been any Goatsnake music since 2004. And the reason why? Well, it's probably the simplest reason you could think of. As guitarist Greg Anderson recently stated, "Life gets in the way of things". That's as clear-cut an answer as you'll ever get from the long-time Goatsnake member, and probably from the other members too. Yes, this is about as honest an account of the band's ongoing legacy as one is likely ever to get, but at least now Goatsnake have still got the visceral energy to create another full-length album.
Case in point, 2015's Black Age Blues
, an album which turns out to be both a suitable follow-up to 2000's fairly successful Flower of Disease
and a reaffirmation that Goatsnake haven't really left. They just didn't arrive when we wanted them to. Besides this, Black Age Blues
is so much more important than its musical content-which, incidentally, is very solid stuff. The latest album was recorded at a so-called "Special ranch" (or Rancho De La Luna, it's proper name, and the English translation being "Rancho of the Moon"), which has quite the interesting history in terms of recording artists. The most well-known of these artists is probably the stoner rock kings QOTSA, who recorded their debut album at this very place. Perhaps this is why the production of Goatsnake's latest record sounds so smoky and, for want of a better adjective, comfortable
. If anything, this is proof that each member of Goatsnake seems to not only be in their element during this 47-minute record, but also very much at home in their surroundings.
Musically then, things essentially pick up where Flower of Disease
left off. The riff-driven, energetic, thunderous rhythm section is still fully intact as the opening notes of album opener "Another River to Cross" invokes that well-honed Southern rock twist, courtesy of prominent vocalist and harmonica player Pete Stahl. If ever one needed to be reminded why Goatsnake were hailed as stoner metal legends back in the day, then this song itself is surely proof. Of course, it's not exactly perfect-the swagger and menace of the band's earlier days seems to be lacking here-but it does the job with enough soulful pride to please anyone who listens to it. This inevitably affects the general direction of the rest of the album. The faster-paced, meaner likes of "Elevated Man", the title track and "Graves" do just as well complementing the slower-paced vigour of "Coffee and Whiskey" and "Jimi's Gone", and Greg Anderson's continually impressive guitar work features excellent interplay with the drum and bass rhythms.
The vocal delivery here is as laidback as you'd expect it to be, but there is a twist this time round. Sometimes joining Pete Stahl are the backing vocalists of Dem Preacher's daughters, who inject a questionable yet fitting Gospel influence into Goatsnake's usual stoner rock formula, and it actually sounds very unique. This only really becomes prominent in a couple of songs-opener "Another River to Cross" and closer "A Killing Blues" to be exact-but listening carefully enough will reveal the band's true musical spirit, particularly in the choruses of these two tracks. On its own, Stahl's vocal delivery doesn't seem to affect the musical output that much. In fact, his involvement in the band's musical delivery is more noticeable when he starts to play the harmonica, producing an unforgettable solo as the mid-section of "Elevated Man" unfurls and lays down the heaviest of riffs as a strong accompaniment. This isn't to say that Stahl's vocal delivery is indistinguishable in any way, but the surrounding instrumentation is so overwhelming that the balance naturally affects that side of the band's output.
With Black Age Blues
, Goatsnake have nothing left to prove. Sure, they've been somewhat forgotten about over the last 11 years (which is a hell of a long time for any band to be out of the music scene), but you can't really deny the band's persistence in attempting to recreate that smoky, Southern twist they perfected 15 years ago with sophomore album Flower of Disease
. Whilst it's not perfect, it is a strong album to kick back into gear with, and will hopefully open up new musical paths for Goatsnake to follow in the near future.