Local outfit Floating Goat is bobbing up and down in the metal ocean, somewhere in the vicinity of its tenth anniversary. Usually a fixture of San Francisco’s sweat-stained stages, their raucous jams and distinctive, steer-horned drumset have been absent lately, but with good reason – time not spent onstage has been spent in dark lairs around the Bay, crafting Spawn of Poseidon/Suburban Anxiety, an ambitious new double LP.
The ten-year milestone can be a dubious distinction, especially when a long shelf-life leads to frustration or musical calcification. For Floating Goat, the opposite is true: the songs on the new album represent strides forward in technique, songwriting, and furor, all of which abet the album’s epic scope.
As its title suggests, Spawn of Poseidon falls more fully in the headbanger wheelhouse, hinging on references to metaphysical spooks and an arsenal of snarling, pissed-off riffs. Opener “Get Out of the Way” features vocals that veer surprisingly close to strident hardcore for a band with such well-established stoner rock pedigrees. This iconoclastic ability to blend subgenres in the name of speed surfaces throughout the record.
Next up is the title track, whose thundering tribal toms evoke the ocean god’s tidal fury with traditionalist aplomb, before revving up into a screaming solo. Ominous, vaguely Middle Eastern melodies kick off “Smoke Rising” before giving way into a classic fuzzy shuffle groove. Guitarist Chris Corona’s playing, honed no doubt by a busy schedule (he is also a member of Orb of Confusion and Hazzard’s Cure, among other local projects) sounds better than ever. While he can be justifiably proud of his leadwork, the way he settles into the churning triplets on “Smoke Rising” is particularly satisfying.
The rhythm section, comprised of bassist Ian Petitpren and drummer Aaron Barrett, showcase their metal mettle on “The Great Wasteland,” the album’s fourth track. Petitpren’s playing is deep, rumbling, impeccable, and inconspicuous in the way that the best bassists seem to master, and Barrett follows Coronas riffs, fills and trills expertly around the kit, occasionally taking the spotlight himself with a deft roll.
“Entropy Must Be Stopped” and “Caught in the Headlights” round out the first LP, the former beginning with chiming, sustained chords before erupting into uptempo battery. The latter starts with a meditative, almost Mastodon-like lead before embarking on a heavy-handed, mid-tempo groove.
Suburban Anxiety, the second album of the pair, is by far the more formally experimental, consisting of two one-track, multi-part opi. Though the double-LP’s first six tracks deliver a hefty helping of the band doing what they already do well, the second album features more inventive, risky songwriting.
Side One track “The Doldrums/Suburban Anxiety/A New Paradise/The Beast” starts with an eerie, Pink Floyd-style lead which fades away ethereally, replaced by a menacing, methodical riff. After about a minute, the band pauses to make room for Corona’s haranguing vocals, with the line “there must be life beyond this hell/robot or slave/cog in a wheel/it’s always the same day,” encapsulating the themes of anger and alienation that drive the second platter. Eventually, the frustration culminates in an explosion of angry thrash.
“A New Paradise” is built around a driving, 6/8 pattern, which underscores a soaring guitar solo before the low-end chords of “The Beast” re-establish the despondent mood. By the track’s tenth minute, the river has overflowed its banks, and the song ends in an avalanche of toms and shredding.
Side Two begins similarly to its partner, with a pensive, acoustic intro accompanied by swelling ride cymbal rolls and a powerful vocal melody. Barrett builds the drums up march-style on the snare, before settling into a groove in preparation for the monster chords that make up the chorus. “The Year of Drought” dabbles in balladry before a meticulous build-up introduces an epic, downbeat-driven main course, which gathers ten-ton momentum before returning to the intro’s somber sonics, which benefit from Petitpren’s captivating, cello-like bass tone. “The Flood” sounds very much like its title suggests, washing inexorably over the listener with increasing intensity until submersion finally results, in the form of a climactic bit of unison riffing. As this fades, the album closes with melancholy guitar, heard as if from underwater.
Floating Goat’s entire double album spectacular will be available for download soon, and for purchase in hard copy slightly later. Both of these developments will likely be accompanied by live appearances. Check back in this space – and at The Bay Bridged generally – for information as it becomes available, including a more detailed description of the local recording and mastering engineers that worked behind the scenes to bring Spawn of Poseidon/Suburban Anxiety into being.