“What’s the scene, bob!” screams singer Joshua Sebastian in the opening track with a guttural tone -a rather rare and unusual form of delivery for a typically chill “Bangalorean” phrase – immediately grasping the listener’s attention to the rapid, hardcore punk infused sonic assault from the opening track of their debut EP, “What’s The Scene, Bob?”.
What immediately struck me was the seamless versatility the songs offered, with slightly unorthodox arrangements, blending fluid transitions between styles of music that share similar roots with each other, yet putting them together in a song could be almost farcical for ardent fans of each genre; viz. punk rock, stoner metal, and doom metal. But Goatsmoke does exactly that, with flair. The chuggy guitar riffs on every song are supplemented by the band’s thumping rhythm section wrapping together a strong backbeat with a loose and enticing feel, bringing a fresh dynamic to this kind of high energy rock n’ roll music. The distorted vocals add to the raw intensity of the group, just adequately enough to keep you hooked without sounding too repetitive and redundant, with strong melodies and a smooth sense of space and delivery that does justice to lyrics about alienation, individuality, and the oft recurring tongue-in-cheek nods to the “devil’s lettuce”. That’s not all however, as we get glimpses of psychedelia fuelled guitar solos -which albeit may seem a bit dated in this day and age- carry nuanced and delicate phrases with poise on top of steady and sophisticated grooves.
Formed in Bangalore in 2019, the band started off much like most groups would, by covering favourites, which in their case included songs by mostly blues, stoner rock, punk rock and sludge metal artists of yore. Their current lineup comprises Joshua Sebastian on vocals, Rishab Herrur on lead guitar, Abhishek Gedela on rhythm guitar, Niharika Shantharaj on bass, and Siddharth Manoharan on drums. “Everyone’s always tripping, just make yours a good one!” says the group, as they exhibit a cool stoner-like-nonchalance that has quite palpably had a positive impact on their music.
The sonic blueprint of the band seems to take heavy influence from legends such as Electric Wizard, Soundgarden, Kyuss, Black Sabbath and the godfathers of stoner metal in Bengaluru – Bevar Sea and Diarch. However, they’ve taken it one step further by adding their own touch of punk rock -akin to the likes of Ramones and Black Flag- in a manner that’s youthful and indicative of musicians who aren’t afraid to experiment beyond their comfort zone. The production is nicely layered, with the riffs sounding like a wall of distortion about to fall right over your head, as if being shaken by tectonic shifts.
It’s no surprise that this group of youngsters went on to open shows for Bengaluru veterans such as Inner Sanctum and LuciDreams throughout 2022 in their hometown, with fans hoping to see more of them. The band is ambitious and shows promise; I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them and the direction they will take. For now, put this on your speakers or headphones and blast it at full volume to fully absorb yourself in a chug filled vessel alternating between violent, rapid spins and mellifluous gushing waves.
Best Song(s): Time Machine and What’s (really) the scene, bob?