When you hail from Dallas, Texas and you play groove-laden down-tuned metal, you know you can’t escape a comparison to Pantera. Especially when former Pantera producer Sterling Winfield is behind the boards for you.
One listen to HellGoat’s self-released debut effort, “The Tide”, and the homage to their local heroes is evident, but not all consuming. There is reverence, but no direct design to emulate. In fact, the HellGoat signature has more of that sludgy feel that seeps from the edges of Down, Black Label Society, and the the great forefathers, Black Sabbath.
HellGoat was founded in 2007 with Allan “Alepeno” Ward on guitars and vocals, guitarist Michael Hueber, bassist Zack Sham, and drummer, Michael Barnett. “The Tide” represents the band’s sonic calling card, and everyone who has heard them is taking notice.
From the opening track, “Raisin’ Hell” HellGoat make it clear they are not reinventing any wheels here. They’re just making some damn fine Southern Comfort fueled , bluesy, chug ‘n roll groove-metal. In fact, the lyrics, “C’mon and let’s get groovin’, right now is right where we belong, raisin’ hell” is Alepeno’s call to arms to his brethren headbangers.
The title cut, “The Tide”, has a nice rolling feel. No pun intended. Great riff, and Barnett’s seemingly effortless skin work really stand out. Tasty solo on the breakdown.
Even when the band gets into full attack mode there’s something relaxed about casual about it all, as on “Another Day” and “Whiskey Bender”. The songs drive forward, but there’s no hurry to get there. Just grab a shot and grab the tiger by the tail and hang on for the ride.
“Breathe” marks the album’s first single. Zack gets the rumbling bass into a nice ominous pocket that flows like evil in four strings. This is a slow-paced beast, but undeniably catchy and packed with, here’s that word again, groove–and plenty of it.
The last half of the album is similar to the first, flowing out like shot after shot of Jack Daniels drenched goodness, full of edge, attitude, and balls. In fact, if there were any complaint at all, it would be “The Tide” doesn’t vary much from track to track, but we won’t hold it against them. There are a lot of new bands out there doing (or attempting to do) what HellGoat does. The difference is HellGoat does it better than most and they make it appear effortless: As if this were album number 10 and not their first.
Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Hatebreed, Hellyeah, Mercyful Fate) does his usual stunning work in the production department.
“The Tide” is an astonishing debut of grind and groove from HellGoat. The Texas tallboys pour it out without pretense, and lay it down like masters. The guitars are burly, but never overly sludgy. The rhythm section is like sonic quicksand, allowing the guitars and vocals to sway and shuffle, but always keeping is set in a heavy foundation, chugging away in pulverizing abandon.
So forget the morass of wannabes, thin the herd and grab the Goat!
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Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Metalholic Radio.