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Come Taste the Snake! - 92%

BassLord, June 10th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Southern Lord Recordings

Goatsnake occupy an interesting place within doom maverick Greg Anderson’s body of work. Already a veteran of several notable bands within the scene, and also shortly to begin his career with the mighty and mysterious Sunn O))), he nevertheless found time to unleash the Snake upon us. This compilation gathers the first album and EP (plus some bonus tracks) of this blues soaked doom group, and hence it is probably the best place to begin your investigation, as there is more than enough material on display here.

Right from the opening salvo of “Slippin’ the Stealth” we are greeted by galloping riffs and wailing vocals that while somewhat familiar sounding, have a vibe clearly their own. This proves to be Goatsnake’s biggest strength throughout this album; they do everything you expect a band like them to do, but how they go about it is something entirely different. Riffs are Sabbath like, but the low tuning and guitar tone leaves them far muddier and sludge-caked. Emphasis is instead placed on material with more of a rocking style, but certain songs are still capable of dragging you into a sludgy depression, such as “What Love Remains.” The vocals are flat out one of the best things about these guys, Pete Stahl possessing the pipes of a true blues singer with just enough grit and attitude to not sound at all out of place. His bursts of harmonica are also a welcome addition as you don’t often hear blues harp on top of savage doom riffage, yet here it works wonderfully.

The band displays an uncanny ability for actual song writing which is often absent in music this deep in the underground. The song “IV” is a great example of this; crawling speed riffs and double tracked drums give the feel of an army on the move, and yet the riffs have hooks and the chorus vocals are genuinely hard to get out of your head. Most of the riffs are so tasty you’ll barely notice the almost complete lack of lead guitars, which is strange as many of the band’s riffs sound like they are made to be soloed over. However, by keeping the guitar pyrotechnics to an absolute minimal, there is very little to get in the way of the awesome riffage, pounding rhythms, and tip top singing.

Much of the material also comes across as sort of Southern fried, but the band do find room for some occasional experimentation. “Dog Catcher” simply put, is just plain strange, but is interesting just because it sounds nothing like the rest of the album, while “Trower” ends with a jammed out section accompanied by strings and female vocals which don’t sound at all out of place. Also included is an excellent cover of one of Sabbath’s weirder songs, “Who Are You”. While the Sabbs were clearly going for something different with that one, here Goatsnake plays it more in the traditional Sabbath style, giving an excellent glimpse into what those synth lines might have sounded like if Tony had played them on his SG! They also do an excellent version of the Free classic, “Heartbreaker” sung here with all new lyrics for a slightly different experience.

If you are a fan of Southern Lord or just great doom metal in general, then Goatsnake is more than worth a listen. Everything comes wrapped up with classy yet sinister gold on black artwork, with the cover displaying a wicked inversion of the Sunn moniker, probably meant to lure in the drone fanatics. There are also track by track liner notes from every member of the band as well as the artwork from the group’s other releases. Southern Lord always provide a superior product and this one is no exception, so get acquainted with these guys soon cause they have been back in action for a while and are still pumping out great albums!