Rising from the ashes of stoner/doom legends Obsessed during the small genre's most fertile post-Kyuss period, Goatsnake helped define Southern California's low-and-slow metal scene during the late '90s. With releases on Hydra Head Records, Frank Kozik's famed Man's Ruin, and Southern Lord Records (co-owned by guitarist Greg Anderson) Goatsnake could be considered a quintessential stoner/doom band of their time. The group is only separated by two degrees from the inimitable Saint Vitus; Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder has performed with the band, and Southern Lord (while perhaps contributing to the end of Goatsnake by demanding the attention of bandleader Anderson) came into its own just about the time that stoner rock's California flagship label, Man's Ruin, went belly up, thereby maintaining an obscure West Coast rock tradition. Facts like these suggest that while Goatsnake might not have been the best Sabbath hounds to materialize after the circus (led by Kyuss) essentially left town, they were among the heartiest, and the most legitimate heirs to the California stoner throne. They were true believers.
In 1996, when Obsessed disbanded for good, the group's rhythm section (bassist Guy Pinhas and drummer Greg Rogers) began looking for a guitarist to jam with when a mutual friend suggested Greg Anderson (who had recently departed Seattle noise rockers Engine Kid). Anderson moved south to L.A., and the three musicians hit it off. After just a few tunes were completed, vocalist and desert-session regular Pete Stahl (Scream, Wool, Earthlings?) was recruited, and the first Goatsnake incarnation was complete. In 1998, two 7" singles, IV and Man of Light, were released and the band also appeared on several metal compilations. Word spread in the stoner underground that a new heavyweight contender was emerging out of L.A. Despite all the attention, it wasn't until 1999 that the group's full-length debut, Goatsnake, Vol. I, appeared on Cathedral vocalist Lee Dorian's Rise Above record label. A highly anticipated album (especially in metal-obsessed Europe), Vol. I was moderately successful by stoner/doom standards. Anderson proved himself to be one of the genre's better six-string sludge-slingers, his bottom-heavy riffs offering a nice balance to Stahl's dynamic vocal workouts on Vol. I.
Goatsnake toured Europe in support of their debut, appearing with the likes of Unida, Fatso Jetson, and Euro doom rockers Electric Wizard. Things went well overseas, in 2000, and Anderson and company returned for a tour of the U.K. with Orange Goblin and Sunn 0))), an experimental dark ambient project featuring Anderson and Southern Lord/Burning Witch partner Stephen O'Malley. That year, Pinhas left Goatsnake and began working with Acid King. The bassist was replaced by Stuart Dahlquist, also of Burning Witch. Adding to their affiliation with Burning Witch, Goatsnake released a split CD with the band on Hydra Head Records. Also in 2000, Southern Lord put out the Dog Days EP. Neither of these releases captured the immediacy of Vol. I, and Goatsnake did little to support the recordings live, suggesting that the band was beginning to lose their drive.
In October, however, Goatsnake put any questions about their heart to rest by putting out their best (and last) full-length recording, Flower of Disease. More detailed, heavier, and yet more musical than anything they had done previously, this swan song is a fitting exclamation point at the end of Goatsnake's stoner/doom musical statement. Although the group's demise wasn't formally announced for almost a year, Dahlquist had left in late 2000 and there was little effort made in 2001 to either replace him or support Flower of Disease through touring. After the split was formalized, Anderson continued with Sunn 0))), Rampton and Thorr's Hammer.
In 2004, the band reunited and re-formed with bassist Scott Reeder (Kyuss) and drummer J.R. Connors (Cave In). They cut three new songs, and packaged them with two previously released cuts as the Trampled Under Hoof EP, then ceased all activity until 2010, when the original lineup performed at the Roadburn Festival. Goatsnake resumed recording and performing activity in 2014. Anderson, Stahl, Rogers, and new bassist Scott Renner (Sonic Medusa, Sourvein) cut the full-length Black Age Blues with producer Nick Raskulinecz. It was released on Southern Lord in June of 2015. ~ Vincent Jeffries