It’s not often you find yourself having to defend Orange Goblin. They’re simply unimpeachable, yet there are some dunderheads out there that insist they aren’t “all that”. I distinctly remember a conversation – drunken, mind you – at a house party on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago, where I found myself defending them. The accusation was thus: “They haven’t released a decent record since ‘The Big Black’”. Bearing in mind that the accuser made this horrifically incorrect statement before they released their best record (Eulogy for The Damned), I considered my options:
On the one hand, you had the incredible watershed moment that was ‘The Big Black’ itself – could ‘Coup de Grace’ or ‘Thieving From The House Of God’ be considered better than ‘The Big Black’? No. Could they at least be considered as good as that particular record? Possibly. The fork in the road came when considering their most recent release (at that time) ‘Healing Through Fire’. I absolutely adored that record from the first listen, and still do. It turns out the so-and-so that made that fallacious statement hadn’t even heard that one… I’m sure it would have been a different story otherwise.
And boy, what an album it is. ‘Healing Through Fire’, in case you’re not aware, is an absolute juggernaut that sounds as good today as it did seven years ago, when it first hit the shelves. It opens with ‘The Ballad Of Solomon Eagle’ – where you encounter the first of several hundred gargantuan, sky-scraper-bothering riffs from Orange Goblin’s Joe Hoare… the tone of the guitars, as you’d expect, is fuzzy and crunchy until a lead break, where they become sharper than a broken (beer) glass. Ben Ward’s signature bellowing adds to the heaviosity, too, folks – he hollers like somebody don’ cloned Lemmy but got the Danzig sample mixed up in there somewhere.
‘Vagrant Stump’ opens with crackling, Celtic Frost fuzz before a blubbery rockstraganza is unleashed on your noggin. It seems the only way to not be crushed by the weight is to constantly shake your head in an up-and-down motion (it helps if you have an invisible guitar to help counterbalance the enormous strain). ‘The Ale House Braves’ is the third straight ripper in a row – it sounds like Mark II Deep Purple, minus the keyboard and with additional beer… the solo in this bad-boy is a particularly troublesome beast, too – it fools you into believing there’s some respite from the crushing sound, perhaps a coda filled with smooth legato lines? No chance.
‘Cities Of Frost’ splits the difference between Celtic Frost and High on Fire (there’s not much of one, which makes that analogy largely pointless) – Ben even does his best Tom G. Warrior “UGGGHHH” towards the end. ‘Hot Knives And Open Sores’ continues much in the same vein – you can even imagine Matt Pike knocking on the door asking for his sound back, such is the smoke-yellowed, beer-moistened riffing power on display.
The crusty punk vibe running throughout ‘Hounds Ditch’ is completely offset by one of the most soothing cuts in Orange Goblin’s catalogue: ‘Mort Lake’ (Dead Water) is just over two minutes of sheer relaxation. There’s tender, medieval-sounding noises coming out of the speakers, in the finest tradition.
‘They Come Back’ (Harvest of Skulls) saddles up the Horse Called Doom and rides till it drops, about halfway through the song and is re-animated, much like the ghost of Celtic Frost, to become a gnarled, deformed mutant form of heavy metal. Riffs? Oh, about a hundred of them, all heavy as fuck.
Epic closer ‘Beginner’s Guide To Suicide’ opens with a ghostly slide-guitar, before Martyn Millard’s bass comes wobbling in like the baddest drunk in the saloon… the track takes a run through First Album Sabbath© blues-doom-boogie and becomes enveloped in a heavy wall of (sleep?) FUZZ.
The two bonus tracks are live versions of ‘The Ballad of Solomon Eagle’ and ‘They Come Back’ – and both are a great indication of what Orange Goblin shows are like. They sound heavier, looser and drunker than they do on their records, and as a result, the live tracks are at least as good (if not slightly better!) than their studio-recorded counterparts.
There’s a song by ZZ Top called ‘Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers’ that essentially typifies my mental image of Orange Goblin. Once tagged with the ‘stoner rock’ tag, they have completely transcended any of those tropes to become a true – arguably Britain’s truest – heavy metal act. Now Cathedral are gone, we need them more than ever: news that they’re currently recording a new record is sure to tingle your pringle with anticipatory pulsations. With the Goblin still cracking heads, and Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell inducing beer-fuelled madness all up and down this land, I reckon the future of Traditional British Metal is in safe hands, don’t you?
Essentially, ‘Healing Through Fire’ is a heavy metal album made by heavy metal fans for heavy metal fans. And it abso-fucking-lutely rocks your block off every time you hear it.
Scribed by: Ross Horton