Heavy metal is, at heart, an existentialist genre. That is to say that metal is a search for authentic life, for real meaning in a world that is indifferent. Meaning can and often does come from community, from fandom, and in that way, metal is similar to all other groups out there, from Potterheads to, dare i say it, Bama Fans. Such meaning, the declaration "I am this!" is enough for many people, and thus we get wagon-jumpers in sports fandom, as well as hair-metal bands. These things say that a sign is enough meaning, no need to go deeper.
But in much of metal, there is a very personal search for meaning that is carried out in the lyrics. Metal's famed association with Satanism and "the dark side" is a part of what “creating an authentic life in a meaningless world” can mean.
And, for some, an authentic life comes from intoxication. (Actually, i might argue that for "most" people their authenticity comes from inebriation, but now is not the time for that.) And thus we come to Doom Metal, also called Stoner Metal, a heavy, tense subgenre that crawls along at a lethargically cannabistic pace.
I find that Doom Metal also hearkens back to the origins of the genre -- to a place where the heavy slow blues of Black Sabbath and Ozzy's Sweet Leaf are entwined, yin and yang. Which brings us the to the latest and greatest masterpiece by Arizona doom metal trio Goya, the aptly named Harvester of Bongloads.
This is a heavy and heady metal album as vocalist and guitarist Jeff Owens sings and riffs his way through self-hatred and apathy in his continual search for a reason to live:
Spent so much time
Trying to get high
I just want an escape from this life!
But even when i come there i am [??? hard to understand this line]
This world is meaningless!
This life a sham!
So perhaps, Owens says, basing your life's meaning on a particular type of inhalation is not as fruitful as it would at first seem. (Well, perhaps that fact is evident to everyone BUT stoners...) But it is the quest that is important, the search. Often people think that asking existential questions leads to despair, but it is asking and not finding an answer that gives despair. The asking is, itself, a life-affirming act. Especially when paired with power chords! The meaning of Owens' life is not in his bong, but ultimately in his guitar.
And the guitar playing is joyous and exuberant. Owens flows from ponderous sludge to bluesy riffage on the opening of triptych Omen: I. Strange Geometry, II. Fade Away, III. Life Disintegrates. This song wanders for 20 mostly instrumental minutes, so be patient as Owens thinks and riffs through the haze.
The above lyrical extract is from the middle of the song, Owens' cries echoed by intense riffing and thunderous drums. But after that, the song parts for III. Life Disintegrates which kicks off with some acoustic guitar a la Sabbath's Southern Cross (thereby adding a Dio reference to the Ozzy that saturates this record).
The first 20 minutes of this record are intense, one long song that ebbs and flows majestically and slowly.
The second half of the record is again broken into three parts, this time as three separate tracks.
The first is Germination, which at barely over two minutes in length feels like an interlude. It segues into the almost twelve minutes Misanthropy On High, where stoner slackerdom meets existential angst and Owens chants "I waste away" over and over as the band riffs.
The final track is just under six and a half minutes and is called Disease, where Owens furthers the themes of the previous track to state that he considers humanity a disease of this planet.
And he leaves us there. There is no happy resolution. Humanity is a disease, so why not just get high? What else matters? Riffing. Head banging. Asking questions. Add your own answer.
But seriously: if you enjoy old heavy metal, then give Goya a chance.