As the UK Doom scene became less shrouded in mystery, (some would say elitism,) there was a surge of new bands being formed. Some of these bands were fantastic, bringing a new energy to a genre that was admittedly at risk of becoming stale from excessive gatekeeping. Others weren’t so… shall we say interesting? They ended up taking the superficial conventions of Doom and similar genres and mashing them into one horrible, mid-tempo, gear fetishing, identikit, StonerSludgeDoom mess that to this day saturates the inevitable all dayer line ups across the country; filling ears with a monotone blare of dreary, stale, dad rock more influenced by Ocean Colour Scene than Paradise Lost, masquerading as something innovative and rebellious in a slew of selfies, bad weed puns, meticulous beard care and pristine trucker hats.
So where do Goblinsmoker fit in to all of this? Well, their first EP was not so much a breath of fresh air as a blast of toxic smog to overpower the patchouli scented nonsense, and their second picks up the baton exactly where the first release left off. A trilogy based around the Toad King and his Goblin army and their war against his own kind, it heralds a welcome revival of truly fucking out there, left-field lyricism and high concept thematic ideas to this arena. There’s so much I could (and did) write about the background to the release and the band itself but just before I sent this for publishing, Astral Noize got a great run down of all of that straight from the horse’s mouth, so instead of regurgitating that, I would strongly encourage you to, as soon as you finish reading this of course, go to Goblinsmoker’s bandcamp site and buy the record before you do anything else THEN go straight to Astral Noiz and give their interview a read to get the definitive rundown.
So what about the tunes? Flanger soaked bass and atmospherics cascade into fuzz drenched pentatonic savagery, this is, for someone with a long-standing love of the genre, Doom as it should be, Doom with more than a nod to Black Metal, Doom that owes just as much to Bathory as it does Black Sabbath.
Production feels simultaneously huge and raw, which befits both the one man origins of the project and the sheer weight of the riffs in play, which rival anything Electric Wizard have done of late. There’s definitely more than a touch of Dopesmoker about the guitar tone, in case you hadn’t already guessed that from the name of the band. The guitar is fuzzed out almost, but not quite to the point of incoherence as you’d expect but there’s so much power and sonic depth that, rather than a thick stoner soup, it conjures an abrasive and relentless edge to the sound.
Flanger soaked bass and atmospherics cascade into fuzz drenched pentatonic savagery, this is, for someone with a long-standing love of the genre, Doom as it should be…
The feedback conjured is worth a mention in itself, it’s so clean as to be nearly ethereal when compared to the rest of the sonic savagery and works well as a foil to the rougher edges of the album. It’s the vocals, however, where things really depart from the by now well-worn template, more Quothorn than either Oborn or Osbourne, a shrieked, pained howl to summon eldritch forces in the name of the Toad King himself.
The riffs themselves, while it would be over-generous to say they’re new and fresh, have enough complexity and subtle touches to stand well above the “that’ll do…” attitude to song writing some of their contemporaries could be accused of, and the songs are compelling, with an organic progression befitting the epic scale of the story they tell.
Is it ground breaking? Possibly not. Are they the only Doom band doing the genre justice in the UK underground scene? Far from it. There’s loads, I’m just a grumpy old man who enjoys having a moan about stuff from time to time. Is there something special about it? Yes. Yes there definitely is.
When I first saw and met the band, their set recaptured everything I fell in love with way back when I first heard Doom. Stripped of meaningless labels like “psyche”, “stoner”, or “post” that only too often mean a diluted approach, Goblinsmoker are Doom to their very core, and both live and on this new recording continue to stand head and shoulders above their contemporaries as, a not so shining example, of what can be achieved in a genre which, in the current climate, is popular and widespread. It’s no wonder they sell physical copies and merch nearly as fast as they can print them.
So overall, when this release is viewed the context of Doom bands in 2020, with its appealingly “retro” take on the genre, twisted high fantasy themes and with bands like Warhorse and Indian newly resurgent, it feels like the time is right for a band like Goblinsmoker to dominate the underground and beyond, and on the back of A Throne In Haze, A World Ablaze I have no doubt they will manage to do exactly that. Death to false metal. Hail the Toad King.
Scribed by: Chris Wood