Friday Full-Length: Goya, 777

Issued by the band in the final days of 2013, Goya‘s debut album, 777, is a beast of stoner doom riffing and unbridled weedian disillusion. From the marching chug of “Rites of Hashage” at the outset through the faster-till-it-isn’t “Necromance” and into the shovel-to-dirt riffing of the extended pair “Night Creeps” (11:59) and “Death’s Approaching Lullaby” (12:54), across the righteous bombast and cutting-through wah solo of “Blackfire” and landing on the lyrical summation amid the disaffected slog of “Bad Vibes,” the second verse of which, “I see this world, it’s not gonna change/At least not for the better anyway/So fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and you and you and you/I know you’re gonna die” really putting a pin in the general perspective as delivered by guitarist Jeffrey Owens in a post-Electric Wizard moan that would be a defining element of the band’s sonic persona, Shane Taylor‘s drums crashing and bassist Jirix-Mie Paz (who also recorded; Brad Boatright at Audiosiege mixed and mastered in Oregon) rumbling low at the foundation of the tracks, lurch or shove take your pick it’s all filthy. Hunter Hancock‘s get-stoned-and-stare cover art like a bestiary of stoner rock iconography, lyrical references and so on. I think I saw some broccoli in there. Can we make broccoli a stoner rock thing 10 years later?

Topping out at 52 dead, rotting, and yet very much alive minutes, 777 tells you it’s going over the top right from the outset in its titular of-the-beast equivalent to Spinal Tap‘s legendary “this one goes to 11.” Goya‘s riffs one-up (or 111 up) the number of the beast, and since it’s all made up anyhow there’s really no way to argue. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, the three-piece had offered a demo (review here) in 2012 that featured “Blackfire” and “Night Creeps,” and to-date they’ve put out two subsequent full-lengths in 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2017’s Harvester of Bongloads (review here), as well as sundry shorter offerings in EPs, splits, singles, the 2021 acoustic EP The Universe Wails being the most recent — “Blackfire” and “Bad Vibes” appear on it, obviously in reworked fashion.

I don’t mind telling you that when 777 came out, I absolutely missed it. Between being released in mid-December and having been a quicker-than-expected turnaround from the demo, I just whiffed. I’d covered the band already and I’d do so later in 2014 with their split with Wounded Giant (review here), but I always felt like I was playing catchup with Goya and having missed out on 777 at the time of its release is why. 2013 brought highlight records from ClutchMonster MagnetVista ChinoAll Them Witches and a slew of others, and I guess I was too busy putting together my top 20 (which even back then went to 30) to catch the smell of smoke on the wind blowing from the Goya 777Southwest at the time. This ain’t Pokemon. You’re not gonna catch ’em all.

What I failed to appreciate about 777 in the moment — and to be fair to myself, this would’ve been a tough one to call — is how throughout 777 and even in the album’s basic construction and style, the grit of its production, the combination of mindfulness of sound and purposeful largesse with a brazen fuckall attitude and the counterintuitive fluidity between them, Goya were speaking to genre from within genre in a new way and with a new generational voice. Consider Monolord‘s Empress Rising wouldn’t arrive until April 2014, and that’s widely regarded as a landmark (not arguing with that, by the way), but in addition to being more miserable, Goya were ahead of that curve even before the curve existed. Did they sound like Electric Wizard? Oh yes. But the production on Dopethrone sounds like shit and Goya took those lessons and at least here were starting to internalize the influence and craft something of their own from it.

Even in the way “Rites of Hashage” unabashedly engages lyrically with stonerly tropes with the chorus, “The highest council has filled this bong/With water from the River Styx/We’ve packed this bowl with weed from distant galaxies/Come forth my child it’s your hit,” 777 represented a fresh mindset, and it’s the difference between Generation X’s ‘we don’t even get high’ protestation against being stoner rock (not universal, but not uncommon among that late ’90s/early ’00s set of bands) and the elder-Millennial, reinforced-by-social-media embrace of THC-infused everything. Coupled with the wretched sprawls of “Night Creeps” and “Death’s Approaching Lullaby,” the self-awareness of the nod and the will to crush as an essential element of the work — “Forever dead, forever stoned,” as “Night Creeps” lumbers toward its and the album’s middle — the frame of reference on display throughout Goya‘s debut would become a hallmark of the style throughout the next decade. They didn’t invent weed puns or stories about getting high in space, but they wore them on their collective sleeve in a way that continues to impact what stoner doom is today.

They broke up at some point after Harvester of Bongloads, which will happen. I’d go back through their Instagram to find the exact date but I have this thing where I take it personally every time someone is flipping off a camera and I’m not sure I could handle the emotional stress. A few weeks back, however, a trio of middle fingers appeared out of the algorithmic ether with the caption, “Still here. Still writing. Still sick of your shit.” Because I’m wont to do so, I specifically asked if that meant they weren’t still defunct, and the answer I got from Owens could hardly be more direct: “For better or worse, Goya will die when I do. -Jeffrey”

They’ve got a show lined up for June, and I have no idea what their writing is leading toward, whether it’s a fourth long-player, or an EP or a single or maybe just riffs just because, but at least they’re active, and in marking a decade since the release of 777 later this year, Goya can look back even as they move ahead toward whatever that next thing might be. Six years after their last record, you’d say they’re due, but baking takes time and Goya have always been well baked. Nonetheless, one hopes for news sooner or later. Wouldn’t want to miss it.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

The Patient Mrs.’ grandmother died this week, which has been a lot to take. We knew it was coming. She was 97 and had started a pretty stark this-is-for-real decline in November. So it’s been months, and The Patient Mrs.’ mother, who is incredible, has been primary-caregiving all the while through that emotional and physical slog with a strength that one can only call preternatural and emblematic of the conviction (and, since it’s Connecticut, the compartmentalizing) toward which she was raised.

Helen went peacefully, not in pain, with family around her, and most importantly, she was ready. That’s more than most of us will get, whether we deserve it or not. When I was a kid and started going to The Patient Mrs.’ family functions, learning their processes for Thanksgiving and Xmas around the time I was 17 or 18, Helen was kind to me in ways she most definitely did not ever have to be, and as a matriarch, she welcomed me into that family in ways that I barely understood let alone appreciated at the time. She always had a formal streak — again, Connecticut — but had a laugh that always seemed to hint at delight in mischief. Prepared as I was for her passing, I’ll miss hearing that.

We told The Pecan on Wednesday after school. I just wanted to get through the school day, get some food in the kid, and so on. The Patient Mrs. had shot up to Connecticut — we’re headed up there this evening as well, will stay over and through probably much of the day tomorrow — to be with her mother and sister, and when she got home we delivered the news together. We’ve been talking about it for months, but The Pecan has been pretty fragile since and is clearly doing some processing. It’s the first loss where kiddo is conscious enough to really understand what it means, so we tried to ease into it to the extent possible. Once more, we knew it was coming.

Grief is like fingerprints; everyone has their own. I remind myself of a long life well lived and someone I was fortunate enough to know and love. She came to The Pecan’s birthday party last October. It was her last real outing. And she took me aside then and said, “I have to talk to you before I leave.” I thought it was some important life advice or maybe she just wanted to call me a terrible parent or who knows what, but it turns out what she wanted to know was what size flannel shirt I wanted from L.L. Bean for Xmas so The Patient Mrs.’ mother could order it on her behalf. I got that flannel, wore it all winter. That that was the super-important, kind-of-grave-seeming thing she wanted to discuss is pretty representative. I was glad that when I went up to see her in January/February, she knew who I was and we got to chat for a minute or two before she nodded off.

That’s the weekend plan, really. To coincide, next week is the Quarterly Review — because of course my timing would be thus — with a full 50 releases to follow up the 70 a few weeks back. Still calling it ‘Spring 2023,’ I finally decided. I know I’m the only one who cares about what that kind of thing is called, but somehow it makes a difference to me. I get hung up on shit like that constantly.

Also had a foll0w-up with my neurologist this week. She put me back on Wellbutrin, which I don’t like but I’m giving a shot because, well, my father never did and if I can do incrementally better than that then at least I’ve done more than him to try to be well in my head, and back on whatever ADD dexomethylsomeshit I was on before, both titrating up to an increased dose. I go swimming. I take vitamins. I do what I’m told. I try not to be a dick when I can help it.

The Patient Mrs. and I are going to record a podcast together. I might put her in charge of distribution, so if anyone has hints in that regard, I’d love to hear them so I can pass them along. I think we’re going to record in two weeks, so I’ll post after that. Need to make a playlist and somehow put it together myself. Open-source audio software here I come. I’m lousy with that stuff, but will try to pick some good tracks anyway, and if nothing else, it’ll be fun to chat with her about music and whatever else. She’s not into the sounds really at all and I find that perspective fascinating.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Watch your head, tell someone you love them, drink water. All that stuff. Back here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with the Quarterly Review and I’ve got a full stream slated for The Machine’s new record besides. Will be a good time.

Thanks for reading.


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5 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Goya, 777

  1. J. says:

    My condolences. Much strength to you and your family.

  2. Matt says:

    Condolences to you and the family JJ.

  3. Seannnn says:

    Love and condolences to you and yours, JJ.
    Not too long go (during Covid), my last living grandparent passed away. Sitting there at the socially distanced/masked (on my part at least, as this was in the South after all) funeral, it really started to hit me, the reality of my own mortality and of those whom I love. I also turned 40 last year, and my body started hurting in random places for no specific reason. The truth is that NONE of us are getting out of this thing alive, so you’ve got to keep swinging for the fences and do whatever it is that makes it all personally worthwhile. We’ve all got to find our own personal (The) Obelisk.

  4. SabbathJeff says:

    As it is said, nothing goes, without saying. Thank you for sharing and condolences to you and yours, JJ.

  5. GT says:

    Sorry for your loss JJ, condolences.

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