There’s nothing particularly original about what London’s Puppy are serving up on their debut record The Goat. Yet, there’s no denying that the power trio’s particular blend of influences is certainly idiosyncratic. The peculiar mixture of alternative, indie rock and occult-tinged heavy metal displayed on their two existing EPs has already earned them considerable buzz within the UK underground and, while the concoction offered up on their first long-player doesn’t quite perfect the formula, it still manages to impress as their strongest collection to date.
It’s surprising Ghost‘s influence hasn’t been felt on a grander scale, given the considerable public profile and critical acclaim the band have garnered in recent years. Sure, the general notion of occult rock/metal has experienced a mild resurgence over the past decade or so. Nevertheless, most of the scene’s standout artists have continued to adhere to older traditions rather than following directly in the footsteps of the nameless ghouls. The Goat feels like the first time a record of note can be immediately traced to Papa Emeritus and co. The band’s influence is immediately apparent from album-opener “Black Hole”. However, rather than simply aping the occult-rockers, Puppy (not to be confused with the Canadian pop-punk band Pup) have instead seen fit to insert their particular style of metal riffing and ooky-spooky imagery into the kind of song-strictures and you’d usually associate with the likes of Weezer and other 90s alt and indie rock staples. The stomping riff of “Black Hole”, for example, has Helmet written all over it. Yet it’s upbeat, theatrical vocal harmonies are far more Chris Collingwood than they are Page Hamilton.
That’s not to say Puppy are in any way lightweights. The driving riff on “Vengeance” almost sounds like a skate-punk take on Machine Head‘s “Bulldozer”; “Entombed” – re-recorded from Vol II (2016) – is built around an ominous riff that reminds of early Deftones or even Soulfly; “World Stands Still” is an anthemic hard rock classic to rival Ghost’s “Square Hammer” and “Demons” even rounds out the record with a distinctive nod in the direction of Pantera‘s domination. It’s not all about the riffs though; more often than not it’s the vocal melodies that shine through. “Poor Me” is prime power-pop Weezer by way of Metallica‘s “The Thing That should Not Be”, while “Bathe In Blood” sounds like The Smashing Pumpkins trying their hand at thrash metal. The ease with which Puppy mix and meld their various influences is truly startling and the consistency of the songwriting, along with the the record’s pervasive catchiness, puts any allegations of gimmickry firmly to rest.
Yet, as impressive as Puppy’s eclectic palette is, The Goat doesn’t quite feel fully realized. Unlike Zeal & Ardor, whose blend of disparate genre’s feels legitimately groundbreaking and perhaps suggests the beginnings of something entirely new, Puppy’s sound isn’t yet entirely integrated. It still sounds like three distinctive sounds played alongside each other rather than being fused together to form a distinctive whole. Each of it’s elements work well together – far better than they have any right to, in fact – and the album remains a striking feat overall. It’s greatest triumph, however, continues to be the excitement it creates for what’s to come.
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The Goat comes out tomorrow, January 25, through Spinefarm records. Order it here.