Hogan’s Goat Self-Titled Debut is a Masterpiece By Kenny Larson
There are times when reviewing new music daily, begins to feel like “Groundhog Day” – i.e. the same day repeating itself over and over. Don’t get me wrong Metal is in a renaissance of sorts and there is no end of good music. However often the reviewer is focused on subtle differences or more and more brutality or extreme themes, etc.
Occasionally, I hear a record that changes the game in such a dramatic way that it defies categorization MEET HOGAN’S GOAT.
There are 3 samples at the end of this review which will give to a tantalizing taste of this new outfit.
I put Hogan’s Goat in the parent category of Metal. Some do not. The bigger challenge is where to put them from there as they dip their toes in many subgenres dipping in and out of metal convention, and don’t fall into any one genre in or out of the metal wing.
At the same time, the record is not a hodge podge of disconnected tunes. All songs are certainly Hogan’s Goat, despite a healthy degree of diversity and unpredictability.
When I first finished writing this record review. I stopped to see what other tastemakers thought of the recording. Not surprising, I could not find a bad review after reading 15 or so. In fact, they all reflected 5 characteristics of the music that I also heard. Is this a coincidence?
Summarized Critical Acclaim
1)Hogan’s Goat could be a catalyst for a new phase of Rock/Metal.
2)Hogan’s Goat seems like a veteran release rather than a debut.
3)Innovative and Genre defying.
4)High pedigree musicians – very skilled with lots of depth.
5)Hogan’s Goat should gain lots of attention.
6)Bound for greatness
I got a chance to interview this band in July. They are humble servants of the fans. The music has a seductive quality live and draws fans who hear their music live, perhaps on 6th street in Austin and wind their way toward where the sound is coming from. In one situation [Hogan’s Goat] set up on a rooftop in Austin with a small gathering which grew to about 1500 fans and filled the rooftop. This was their FIRST show of all time!
As for the name, it is based on a Scottish legend and more can be learned about it by searching google for Hogan’s Goat Legend.
The Band is:
Vocals: John Salmon
Rhythm Guitar: Donovan Bettise
Lead Guitar: Thomas Banks
Bass: Aaron Stoner
Drums: Wayne Michel
First off let’s mention a sample of the conventions employed in this record. On the 10 tracks that make up the debut you will find: heavy guitar driven songs, clever riffs, and amazing solos. additionally, you will find a very solid bottom end, bass solos, gang vocals, harmonious vocals, dramatic and well woven spoken word, just a hint of derivative rap here and there, slide guitar, blast beats, double base with no triggers, and a versatile voice that goes from a sort of crooning to pure grit and then at the far outside – rasp, very clever lyrics, and Lastly, a good ole Hammond B3. The list doesn’t stop here. I could go on for pages.
There are influences from every quarter on this record, including, Metal, Country Rock, Blues, Jazz.
Hogan’s Goat did not use pitch correction or triggers for double bass. When a mistake was made it was left on the record. The recording process was to cut the drums first with a click track and then record the other musicians using the drums for timing. This gives the record a feel as though it was recorded live in studio.
Hogan’s Goat is not signed to any Label. They are completely independent.
The album was mastered by the legendary Tommy Dorsey. The Gauntlet was fortunate to catch Tommy on the phone to ask for a statement on Hogan’s Goat. Tommy Dorsey said “I think those guys [Hogan’s Goat] are fantastic. The record is Awesome. I felt like it was their 4th or 5th record. It was put together so well! …and I gotta say there really is not a bad track on this record. They are all great! I wanted this recording to be as good as possible and [subsequently] spent an entire week on it!”
Annie off the Rails
Over the Palisade
If I’m Dead
Jack & Jill
Drinkin’ with the Priest
I really like every track on this record. The song structures veer off the rondo path now and then. Listen for some cool bridges as well. The guitar work is singular.
Track by Track Synopsis:
This track starts out with a short but very classic and powerful overture, setting the tone for the record. Then Tom, immediately kicks into a great riff followed by the vocals and a cool lead guitar just slightly underneath, while Donovan holds up the groove. John starts in one of his cleaner vocal styles weaving a story.
The Chorus is a surprise. The phrasing is a rapid meter and one of those cool things you were not expecting. The lyrical line “She’s smokin trouble” is so cool - foreshadowing of further clever lyrics throughout the record. At about 2:45 the double base kicks in and raises the heaviness while the guitarist wails on a solo which sounds like maybe a phase shifter is in the circuit at first. The axe solo goes straight through to the end. Rat boy is a sonic juggernaut that doesn’t let up
Once again, the vocal phrasing is truly unique. The song structure is atypical ABCBDBEB. Tom and Donavan start with a full force instrumental for 2 bars and then John the vocalist kicks in. Around 55 seconds the guitarist does what sounds like a third finger bend in three descending tones two times. This is very cool and harkens back to Ace Frehley’s “Baby Driver.” I love this effect! There is a full stop bridge at 1 ½ minutes. The chorus lyric “Long Con” has a quality that frankly I just cannot describe. It’s sort of like a lift from the darker lyrics which gives the illusion of a positive sounding song. Pennymade is extremely catchy.
A dirge like guitar phrase introduces this track. The song feels quite dark, sparse, and down tempo through the first minute at which a nearly complete capitulation introduces the next section which is up tempo with Johns characteristic phrasing and some incredible howling backing vocals. After the next verse, we return to the sparse dirge and the backing vocals have evolved into a more haunting sound. Another verse and Johns Grit comes out. While the guitars hold a deceptively simple riff. Wayne on the kit is also out of the blue print with his stylistic beats. The guitar solo also has a lot of style, while the rhythm guitar is holding up part of the bottom and then bang – a bass solo from Aaron. While the base is climbing, the guitars are doing some freaky shit – sort of mysterious.
Annie off the Rails
Starts off with a great riff which repeats throughout the record. John is at his grittiest so far. The tune has an imaginative refrain to a short bluegrass picking. This is followed by a wall of sound - full and heavy – including blast beats, Guitar solo, speed picking, and hammering double bass. Wayne is no slouch on the kit.
Over the Palisade
Song starts with an innocent little riff and immediately launches into a full-blown attack. The backup vocals at first seem haunting. Later in the song they seem comforting. There is some rap influenced three-line rhyming phrases.
If I’m dead.
Starts with the transistor radio effect for the first bar and then becomes present and full. This is another convention I love. The signature riff here is remarkable and has a southern style. The song builds to a spoken word part layered over while Wayne does very stylistic drumming. Add to that Toms guitar soloing. The song slows down and showcases the guitar solo – which is moving. The end features the backup singers harmonizing.
This may be the heaviest song on the record. There is a degree of dissonance from the lead guitar. This leads into one of two spoken word parts in the song. I find that spoken word in a song is entrancing. After the first Spoken part, the instrumentation returns with backups that are almost robotic sounding. We hear John taking his vocals into the rasp zone. The song concludes with another spoken word part.
Jack and Jill
The song begins with full instrumentation and a Riff that repeats 4 times. Tom changes the riff slightly with a few different notes particularly the last note. Vocals kick off straight and and soon develop into a harmonizing chorale. This is something I have never heard before, but it’s evocative. How did these guys come up with this stuff?
Starts with guitars that ring for a bit. Vocals kick in for a verse which ends with a crescendo of Heavy guitar. Here we see the vocalist aggressive and emotive. There is some rap influenced harmonizing and perfectly rhyming. I hate sounding like a broken record, but once again the Guitar solo conjures new emotions, almost a departure from the song.
Drinkin’ with the Priest
This song is particularly interesting because I used to drink with a priest, get smashed and try to find some ladies to party with. He has since left the priesthood. I think the opening Riff is the most different on the record. This song has the vocals harmonizing in an almost chant or mantra style. After which a drum roll ushers in a folky refrain. The guitar solo is at points spacey. It is also quite long. Right on!
Lyrics can be like poetry, As in the intent of the poems message is often only know by the author, but the readers come up with all kinds of different themes. Lyrics can be esoteric, allegorical and literal, cryptic. When I read the lyrics the first thing I thought of was Jim Morrison. I will probably be criticized for the comparison, but that is what I felt, read and heard. Most of these songs have two or more characters or personalities.
The themes are murder, suicide, narcissism, drugs, the devil makes cameos, as does a god – which ensues in an argument about deism with the main character stating he cannot follow it. Could Annie off the rails be describing rails of cocaine? Pennymade is about a con artist doing a long con. His mark/girlfriend is the victim, seems to know what’s going on but doesn’t care. Shit Kicker is about cowardice and bravery. Over the Palisade describes a man going overboard in the sea. This could be a metaphor or literal. John Doe seems to be a making a non-racist statement, and involves a protest which breaks out into war. Elkhorn mountain is about a murder on the mountain. Possibly the last in long chain of murders. Drinkin with the priest is about a character that will not become a deist for his girlfriend.
One thing that stands out in the lyrics is the way things are worded so innovative. Here’s a couple of examples:
“Hung from the gallows swung an innocent shadow.”
“She’s Smokin Trouble”
“I’m out of hell on Ezekiels wheel.
There are no love songs on the record. There are however songs about male female relationships which are bound by drugs and other things. Very dark partnerships.
The best part of the lyrics is Johns uncanny phrasing.
This band will certainly usher in a new era of music. FUCK YEAH. There are times when I think to myself how did they do this? Just when we think there is nowhere for metal/rock to go, a band like this introduces us to something completely different. I have listened to the entire record perhaps 30 times and I am here to tell you, IT GROWS ON YOU. There is constant discovery of new sounds and approaches. I strongly suggest you buy this record at your favorite outlet. I promise you will not regret it! If you do not like it at all I will personally refund your money. Below are three singles that will give you a taste for this band.
1)The next album will be heavier
2)The first filmed video will be “Annie of the Rails, followed by “Shit Kicker,” and “Over the Palisade.”
3)When Hogan’s Goat hits the road, they will have a rapid rise.