“We have a new member joining us for our meeting tonight, would you care to introduce yourself?”
“Ahem, yes…my name is Ollie and I’m…I’m an Orange Goblin fan”
Yes God Dammit!!! I am an Orange Goblin fan and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I have been now for nearly 16 years, over half my adult life. I’ve been a fan since before they even released an album…since before they even recorded an album in fact. I’ve been a fan since they were a bunch of fresh faced, flare wearing young ‘uns with an overt Sabbath fixation. I’ve been a fan since Ben Ward was thin!!!! To my mind they are one of the finest heavy rocking bands this country has right now so the arrival of a new album is an exciting yet nervous time. As a die-hard fan I feel that I am more than qualified to scrutinize and pull apart this album…after all I have more to lose if this album sucks balls, much more than a casual observer who is unfamiliar with the ways of the Goblin and cares even less. If it doesn’t deliver it is me that will be left with a crushing sense of disappointment, the sense of being let down, the sense of being abandoned by those I thought I could trust. With that in mind let me get the criticisms out of the way first. Fuck it…I don’t have any!!!!
What sets Orange Goblin apart? Where so many bands try to pigeon hole themselves as stoner, doom, trad metal, thrash…whatever, Orange Goblin don’t. They may incorporate elements of all of that in their sound but that’s the point, it is their sound and no-one else’s. In its purest form Orange Goblin are a rock and roll band. Not a rock and roll band in the Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard sense of the phrase but a rock and roll band in that they don’t box themselves in, if something sounds good to them they will play it…their way. Add to that an innate ability to craft succinct songs that are jammed full of hooks and memorable melodies and you are left with a winning formula and on “A Eulogy For The Damned” it does score a big win.
As with the previous two albums, 2004’s “Thieving From The House Of God” and 2007’s “Healing Through Fire”, this new offering kicks off with a track that could be considered a future classic, “Red Tide Rising”. This is pure, ball busting Orange Goblin from the off as it rides on one of their trademark galloping riffs with guitars right up front and Ben Ward’s gutsy growl leading the troops with self assurance and a keen sense of melody. Listen carefully and you’ll hear bassist Martyn Millard indulging his inner Geezer Butler with some tasty runs and drummer Chris Turner lays down the most solid beat around.
As much as they may be a metal band, inside the Goblin beats a heart of blues and on “Stand For Something” with its lazy groove and southern tinged vocal this is never more evident. Credit for this soulful touch may be laid at the feet of guitarist Joe Hoare whose listening tastes pull the band into the vintage territory at many points through the album. His playing is always deft, tasteful yet imbued with a feel that no shredder could even hope to capture. The guy truly has an old, if slightly bewildered head on relatively young shoulders!!! The track also features one of Goblin’s most endearing and enduring choruses to date…hell, this even borders on having a pop sensibility!!!
Fear not those of you who think the band may have mellowed in their advancing years for “Acid Trial” brings the metal with more than a nod to the heady days of the NWOBHM. This is another Goblin galloper built around a bewildering array of neo classical note filled riffs and monstrously heavy breakdowns. You can practically smell the sweat in the practice room as the band were writing this.
Up next the Goblin boys offer up yet another album highlight in “The Filthy And The Few”. A high energy punkish blast that is still tempered with a rock and roll heart. This is typified in Hoare’s brief but oh so effective solo that evokes the spirit of Chuck Berry put through a wall of cooking Marshall stacks.
So up to this point the metal has largely reigned supreme but on “Save Me From Myself” the boys see fit to unleash their inner Skynyrd. Rolling on a sliding riff Ward allows himself some respite from his throat ripping howl to display his lighter yet still rich tones. Come the middle eight he even chances some very well placed harmonies that show that seven albums into their career they’re not afraid to try new ideas. It has to be said that Ward has rarely been on better vocal form and this track shows the level of control and diversity he is capable of when he allows himself room to breathe. Listen carefully and you’ll even hear some layered “ooh ooh” style work in the background. When you get bands like Black Stone Cherry claiming to carry the southern rock flag along come Orange Goblin and poleaxe them in one fell swoop!!!
Orange Goblin have always excelled at the big epic metal track, just check out “Cities Of Frost” from the last album for proof, and here they hit us with “The Fog”. In some ways this is the typical Orange Goblin song starting with some mighty doom that gives way to a heavier than steel verse riff albeit infused with the groove before kicking ass and taking names with a punchy upbeat chorus. Goblin know what they do best and do it all here. Then, just when you think you have them pegged, they change tack and kill us with a sinister about turn of broody metal that has echoes of some prime Metallica…when they were still good and didn’t fuck about with make-up, grunge riffs and shit production jobs!!! As Ward repeats “there’s something in the fog”, you bet there is, a whole can of whup ass!!!!
So, you want to hear Goblin get funky don’t you? Fear not, this is still heavy as fuck but “Return To Mars” rides in on a tight, syncopated beat from Chris Turner before Hoare unleashes a cocksure strutting riff that gives way to some slinky funkadelic rhythm chops. This is the kind of tight little tune that Goblin always throw in as a teaser to let us know they have more up their sleeves. After this little respite they throw us back into the metal mire with “Death Of Aquarius” which again delves back into some quality, old school style metal that bounces along on a commanding beat with Hoare simultaneously succeeding in keeping things brutally heavy yet harmonically resonant throughout.
“The Bishop’s Wolf” offers up another of the band’s trademark, booze fuelled rock outs charging along from the outset with an adrenaline charged rush that breaks down to a chorus in which the Sabbath stones are thrown to the ground. Don’t be fooled into thinking Goblin are going to let us off easy though as the song dives headlong into a Hammond driven soul blasting mid section before returning to the temple of Iommi for one last gut churning climax.
Practically exhausted by this point we come to the final leg with the seven plus minute title track. So I guess you’re expecting some gargantuan doom aren’t you as the album has been a bit light in this area…they must have been saving this up for last right? Wrong!!! The song eases in on the mellowest passage the band have come up with so far. Clean guitars vie with Ward’s most restrained vocals yet. It doesn’t take long before the amps are maxed but it’s not to bring the dirge…oh no…Orange Goblin hit us with a mighty rolling groove that hints at echoes of “Tough Luck” from the “Thieving…” album before Hoare bares his soul with a run of chords that show a melodicism the like of which Goblin have never yet hit and a solo that, dare I say it, isn’t a million miles removed from some of Slash’s finer moments. Listen carefully though as you’ll hear a lot more going on here than you may at first realise. The production is dense with extra, almost imperceptible layered vocal touches that give the whole thing a spiritual lift to the fade.
So there it is, the new Orange Goblin album in all its glory. The dust may just be settling on the New Year and the official release date may be February 13th but already I can assure you that this album WILL, not only appear in many end of year best album lists but looks set to top a good number of them. It may have taken them five years from the previous album but the band have reached into themselves and produced a piece of work that easily matches the finest points of their previous work and in many places exceeds them. There’s life in the old dogs yet!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall