Retro Review: Orange Goblin ‘Coup De Grace’

I know it’s a redundant statement, but time sure seems to move faster the older you get, and it seems to have only accelerated since the beginning of 2020, while simultaneously being frozen in place. In yet another example of time moving way too fast, London overlords Orange Goblin’s monster fourth album, 2002’s Coup De Grace turned twenty this year, and the band are celebrating by performing the album, in its entirety, for the first time ever, at London’s Electric Ballroom. Twenty years? I remember buying this new, on CD, in the store when it first dropped, and although it feels like it’s been a while, twenty fucking years? Really? Taken in context, with both my life and Orange Goblin’s discography, and when charts and graphs are drawn up, twenty years is about right, but god damn, talk about time flying.

Orange Goblin 'Coup De Grace'

Orange Goblin were one of my gateway bands, back too the riff, in the late ‘90s after half a decade listening to garage punk & noise-rock. I bought Time Traveling Blues off the long-gone, but mega-influential and its online store All That’s Heavy. If I remember correctly, I bought both Orange Goblin AND Electric Wizard, based on both their names, which, at the time, were still mind-blowing to me coming from the musical world where I’d been dwelling, as well as the reviews and positive energy they were receiving, in the then still-small stoner rock scene online.

Both of those bands, along with Cathedral and Acrimony really cemented my love of UK stoner/doom. I spun the shit out of Time Traveling Blues, as well as The Big Black, before going back and getting Frequencies From Planet Ten, which of course instantly went on heavy rotation. Orange Goblin set themselves apart right away, to my ears anyway, from most of their UK contemporaries, as well as the stoner rock running parallel in both Southern California, and the east coast of the United States, by being, well, frankly grimier than most of their peers in that first wave of stoner rock. Ben Ward’s vocals and delivery have always been all at once, rough-and-tumble, gruff, ballsy, and commanding, while guitarist Joe Hoare’s tone has always been just a little nastier, a little dirtier, a little more Fast Eddie Clarke than his fellow guitarist of the era, even on the early material like Frequencies From Planet Ten.

By the time Orange Goblin released Coup De Grace, it had become clear upon first spin, that the band had continued to embrace the grimy, Motörhead and punk rock side of the band, while still keeping their hefty riffage intact. Right off the bat, Scott Reeder’s (Kyuss, The Obsessed and stoner rock figurehead) production, and tone choices stand out from their previous releases. Hoare’s tone is even dirtier and nastier, while the rhythm, section of then-bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner both somehow sound like their holding the whole thing together, while simultaneously driving the train off the tracks. Coup De Grace’s songs all have a feeling of danger, of the whole thing falling apart at any time, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so infectious.

It’s heavy, punky, in your face, and totally fucking killer…

Kicking the whole thing off with the now-classic Your World Will Hate This, all of the aforementioned elements are on display, Ward’s aggressive, charging vocals, including an early ‘fuck!’. Hoare’s grimy-ass guitar tone, and the careening-off-the-tracks rhythm section of Millard and Turner. It’s heavy, punky, in your face, and totally fucking killer. Orange Goblin take a quick breath as Turner’s drum roll introduces Hoare’s utterly infectious, earworm riff of Monkey Panic, an all-time Orange Goblin favorite of mine. I mean if Ward’s lyrics ‘Now it’s time for you to run, got the fear so get your gun, drink your whiskey, drink your wine, take your pills and come inside’ isn’t an all-time stoner rock verse that makes you want to either get fucked up, or break shit, then Hoare’s next mid-section riff most definitely will. If all that weren’t enough, Nebula’s Tom Davies makes a guest appearance on backup vocals.

Rage Of Angels finishes off the opening one-two-three punch, and is a furious, stomping ripper of the highest order, complete with one of the all-time stoner rock-chug breakdowns. All of this, before we even get to the bizarre, mid-tempo weirdness of Made Of Rats, which features the one and only John Garcia of Kyuss on guest vocals, as he and Ward tag team back and forth. Certainly, an album highlight, and twenty years in, I’d venture to call it a career highlight, in a career filled with them.

Coupe De Grace is end-to-end all-killer, no-filler, but more of my personal favorites include the utterly lethal riffage of Getting High On The Bad Times, where Hoare seems content to stack riff upon riff on top of each other, the perfectly sequenced instrumental Graviton, giving the listener a brief reprieve that feeds into the vicious, walking, stomp riffing of Red Web. Then there’s the rockin’, bluesy, humorous and weird-as hell Born With Big Hands, which is followed by the massive riffage of Jesus Beater, where Garcia shows up again to tag team once more with Ward, and the Orange Goblin blues -stomp of Stinkin’ O’ Gin. Lest we forget, there’s also The Misfits cover, We Bite, that sees Orange Goblin overstating their punk influences riding nicely next to all the grimy, Motörhead metal and rock that occupies so much of the album.

Twenty years in, it’s fair to say that Coup De Grace was a bit of an inflection point for the band, as they tended to follow the more aggressive Motörhead-style metal on subsequent albums like Thieving From The House Of God, Healing Through Fire et al, all the way to their latest release, 2018’s The Wolf Bites Back. Twenty years in, Coup De Grace still hits like a ton of bricks, the band clearly on fire, and Reeder capturing them at their most pummeling and dangerous, with some of the dirtiest guitar tone ever laid to wax. Not that I ever need an excuse to launch into an Orange Goblin kick, but certainty revisiting Coup De Grace through a twenty-year-lens, it’s not hyperbole to say that this is a stone-cold classic stoner rock album, delivered by one of the, pun very much intended, OG’s of the genre.

Label: Rise Above Records | The Music Cartel
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Scribed by: Martin Williams