Released: 2015, Southern Lord
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Metal has been experiencing a sort of reunion renaissance as of late; Sabbath, Carcass, Dark Angel, At the Gates, and myriad of other notable and not-so-notables have decided to put their party pants back on and crank some new tunes. But man, if you’d told me this time last year that I’d have a new Goatsnake record in my hands (and one with the original lineup, no less), I would’ve called you a goddam liar. But yet, here I am, pissing off my neighbors with the thundering bellow of BLACK AGE BLUES – the first new Goatsnake LP in a decade and a half, and my new favorite album of 2015.
Though the band enjoyed working man status in the early 00’s, many of their devotees discovered the band posthumously, thus rocketing their stock to near legendary status within the doom community and setting the bar for a comeback album pretty doggone high. Happily, BLACK AGE BLUES comes across as a totally natural progression for Goatsnake; so much so that it sounds like they never really “split”, they just hit the pause button for a really long time. All of the ‘Snake hallmarks remain intact - Greg Anderson’s molasses thick riffs, Pete Stahl’s inimitable vocal presence; it’s just like you remember it, only better now.
Playing to their strengths, the nine new tracks on BLACK AGE BLUES favor more concise, blues minded rockers over the more traditional stoner trope (almost like a doomier version of Clutch). It’s a trick that’s always been in the band’s wheelhouse, but never quite as consistently prevalent as it is here – but it does wonders for the album’s momentum. Standouts like “Elevated Man”, “Coffee and Whiskey”, “Jimi’s Gone” and the title track bounce with walloping groove against a diametrically opposed wall of monster fuzz, while “Another River to Cross”, “Grandpa Jones” and “A Killing Blues” remind you that the band can still bring the sludge, too. Also worth noting is that the production on BLACK AGE BLUES sounds fantastic. There’s been quantum leaps in recording equipment since the band was last in the studio, and I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that Anderson runs Southern Lord either, but this is by far the best “sounding” Goatsnake record to date. Totally night and day against the rest of their catalog.
Goatsnake have always the gold standard for quality doomisms and BLACK AGE BLUES is no exception. BLACK AGE BLUES is the album you didn’t know you needed, but after hearing it, you won’t want to live without it. Whether this is a one-and-done for the band or the beginning of a new chapter, it’s everything you’d hope for from a new Goatsnake record and then some.