I was excited when I saw reviews for the new Goatsnake come out. A doom/sludge band that plays up the blues influences. Greg Anderson. Album of the month. What more could someone ask for?
I’ll say up front that the first listen was a catastrophe. Blah, blah, blah, necessary disclaimer about not wanting to give negative reviews, but I tend to only listen to one new album a week, so …
I liked almost no aspect of it. Both doom and blues are all about feeling the music. I felt none of it. There were some original riffs, but many of them are tired cliches we’ve been hearing since the 50’s.
I’ve played a bit of blues. I know that it is structurally repetitive, often featuring some 12 bar variant on I, IV, V, I7, and that’s it. It features a head or single riff that gets developed. But traditional blues don’t “feel” repetitive, because the riff really gets developed with a clear forward motion.
I think where this album fails the most is in its repetitiveness. Some songs have a single riff repeated probably 100 times with no development or soloing. They sometimes bring in extra instruments like a harmonica to drive their theme home. These parts are slightly better, but still feel repetitive and tired.
I’ll try to make this point in one other way. The reason the repetitiveness of a blues chart doesn’t feel repetitive is that the performer feels their way around it. This makes it messy. Time gets bent to suit the mood. Goatsnake have some tempo changes, but the overall band plays in a very rigid manner. The play on the beat rather than on the back of the beat.
I know this is going to get misinterpreted. I can hear the complaints already: you can’t say a doom band is bad because they aren’t playing the blues properly. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying they’ve appropriated parts of the blues that are uninteresting without bringing anything along that would make me want to listen to it.
There are some good doom guitar playing moments when they ditch the blues riffs like the breakdown in the song “Black Age Blues” or really the whole song “House of the Moon.” I also really like the heavy guitar tone. I attribute this to Anderson’s experience in the drone scene.
The lyrics are a turnoff. There’s only so many times you can hear “Coffee and whiskey / ‘Til the cows are comin’ home,” before hitting next to skip the track.
Overall, I didn’t enjoy listening to this one bit. I won’t deign this with a number rating to avoid the offense people will take at their beloved band being rated so low by some nobody on the internet.
Here’s a sample:
And here’s a sample of blues music. Note that it is just as repetitive and the riff is just as simple, but the first 30 seconds has more development, time manipulation, soloing, and feeling than the whole album Black Age Blues combined: