Goliathan is a title that would seem to promise colossal things – the sound of some gigantic creature run amok in heavy realms. After all, this is stoner metal! This burgeoning subgenre regularly passes the bong with doom and sludge – interrelated sects that regularly summon gargantuan behemoths of sound and turn them loose in sagas that range from frightening to hilarious. North Carolina’s Weedeater, however, take a different approach. While their fifth full-length Goliathan is certainly stonerly – with fuzzed, bassy tones and bluesy pacing and repetition – the band have no grand designs to transport you to the riff-filled land. Simplicity and minimalism have their places in every genre, but Weedeater’s latest batch lacks the incisive and subtle qualities needed to make an impact. On Goliathan, less feels like less, not more.
“Processional” opens the album with a funny little keyboard melody accompanied by quiet slide bass. A menacing southern voice whispers threats at the listener – “I really hate your face… I’m coming after you.” Title track “Goliathan” follows, introducing itself with a fuzzed-out riff delivered solo. Weedeater’s aesthetic does not involve much in the way of bludgeoning. Dave “Shep” Shepherd’s guitar tones are not compressed or equalized into the realm of the preternatural, nor is Dave “Dixie” Collins’ bass mixed out of a nominally realistic range. Collins’ vocals are delivered in a thin, ragged snarl that makes no pretentions to sounding anything but human.
This isn’t a disqualifier on its own. There is plenty of room in stoner metal for Weedeater’s strain of plainspoken tunes, and hey, if you listen to it loud enough, it sounds plenty thick. The trouble is that there’s nothing really in the way of riffs, songwriting, energy, lyrics, technicality or anything else to make Goliathan preferable to, oh let’s say the latest Eyehategod record. The creativity bowl is cashed! The most you’ll get is a slight buzz, if you’re lucky.
There are a few experiments, like the intro, the ominous, banjo-picking “Battered & Fried” and instrumental outro “Benaddiction.” None of these are terribly interesting. “Bully” is at least interesting, dispatching alliterative childhood euphemisms like “pee pee,” “wee wee” and “doo doo” along with deranged cacklings over a punk-thrashing rumble for a chilling effect. Other songs like “Cain Enabler,” “Bow Down” and “Joseph (All Talk)” are just stoner metal played with moderate energy, at moderate volume. “Claw of the Sloth” probably has the best riff on the album, but it isn’t even killer.
An album title like Goliathan has inevitable associations. Who doesn’t have fond memories of Mastodon’s ambitious nautical epic? After hearing Goliathan, it feels like a bait-and-switch. Why remind listeners of an album that had scope, technicality and vision, then serve them this humdrum stuff?
Supporters of cannabis proclaim that it cures boredom, stirs the imagination and unlocks creativity. Detractors say that the wacko tobacco simply makes its users lazy, sluggish and dull. Unfortunately for listeners and 420 proponents, Goliathan provides solid evidence for the latter argument.