REVIEW: Orange Goblin – Back From the Abyss (2014 GUEST REVIEW)

NEW RELEASE – GUEST SHOT by UNCLE MEAT

GOBLIN1ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From the Abyss (2014 Candlelight)

When the mighty Orange Goblin started their musical journey, they really were more of your typical “Stoner Rock” fare.  Now to be fair, the word “typical” there refers to the overall sound and style of their music.  Right from their 1997 debut album, Frequencies From Planet Ten, it became apparent that if Orange Goblin was to be labelled “Stoner Rock”, then they were rightfully placed on the top shelf with the elite bands of that genre.  With their 2012 release, A Eulogy For The Damned, Orange Goblin dabbled sparingly with other forms of heavy rock.  The title track being the best example of that, which I feel is one of the best pieces of hard rock ever released.  But still, the album as a whole really was one big heavy metal punch to the head.  Orange Goblin’s latest musical journey  is more like a series of methodical jabs, as if the 12 songs were 12 different rounds of a barbaric boxing match, each round finding a different way of attacking your senses.  The aforementioned title track from Eulogy of the Damned showed me that Orange Goblin were capable of becoming something very different than just a “Stoner Rock” band.  Back From the Abyss sees the transformation completed.  After a couple listens I truly believe that when Orange Goblin’s career is assessed in retrospect, Goblin’s latest album will go down as their quintessential release.

The title of Orange Goblin’s 8th release refers to the gruelling two-year long tour that followed the release of Eulogy of the Damned.  It was on this tour that I had the privilege to see them live in London, Ontario last year.  They were outstanding live.  It was literally a fucking metal party.  The band seemed to enjoy the festivities as much as the crowd did.  Vocalist Ben Ward towered over the crowd like Conan and had his fellow barbarians eating out of his huge palm.  It should be noted as well, that as intimidating as Ben Ward is on stage, he was completely the opposite upon meeting him after the show.  He was a true gentleman and his overall coolness was very impressive.  Taking the experience of their first full North American tour to the studio produces Back From The Abyss. I personally was praying to the Metal Gods that Orange Goblin’s next album would continue to explore more musically diverse ways of punching you in the fucking head.   This album delivers much more than that.  This could very well be Orange Goblin’s finest hour.

“SABBATH HEX” –   The album starts off as it should with reckless Goblin abandon.  According to Ben Ward the song title came from an idea he once had to put a curse on anyone who doesn’t like Black Sabbath.  This is a great chugging riffy opener.  Starting from track one you start to realize Ben Ward is becoming more than just a growler.

“UBERMENSCH” –  Get in the car with Orange Goblin.  Fasten your seatbelts as they hit the gas pedal and tear it up.  That pretty much describes this second track.  Great riff during the verses are reminiscent of early QOTSA.  Riff is king.

“THE DEVIL’S WHIP” – This song was released weeks ago, and a lot has been written already about this being a blatant Motorhead memorial.  That is exactly what it is.  I find the track reminds me of the song “Iron Fist”, but I am sure every Motorhead fan would be reminded of a different track themselves.  From the beginning “Alright!” cue, this song is indeed a Kilmister-worthy tribute that speeds along at a break-neck pace.

“DEMON’S BLUES” – One of the greatest things about this album for me are the many different vocal approaches.  While most of this song sees Ben Ward barking out the blues in his special way, “Demon’s Blues” begins with spoken word that has a very doom metal feel.  I really like the melody-first approach on this song (which is even more apparent on the chorus), and it seems to foreshadow what is to come.

“HEAVY LIES THE CROWN” – It is official now.  Orange Goblin has progressed from being a great heavy rock band to being true songwriters.  This track is fucking awesome.  I love the lyrics, the great guitar work and the anthemic vocals.  In a recent interview, Ben Ward compared the ending chanting vocals to early Manowar and I can totally hear that.  For me, the last couple minutes of this track sounds like if Thin Lizzy had written the Game of Thrones theme song.  Best piece of music so far on the album.

“INTO THE ARMS OF MORPHEUS” –   Well, I did say “so far”.  “Into the Arms of Morpheus” starts off with a very “NIB”-like isolated bass line.  As this song marches on, Goblin launches into the molten blues they do so very well.  I love the ending of this song.  This might be the best guitar work I have ever heard from guitarist Joe Hoare.  It is becoming apparent that Orange Goblin are really challenging themselves as songwriters now.  And that theme continues with the next track as well.

“MYTHICAL KNIVES” – This pirate-themed track shows Ben Ward experimenting even more with his vocal approach.  More doom-esque tones and even parts that sound more like Gregorian monk chanting than rock vocals.  “Mythical Knives” = Melodic Power.  Nuff said.

“BLOODZILLA” – Orange Goblin warns you of what you are in store for as Ben Ward screams “Go!”  And as “Bloodzilla” began, there I was, heavily cutting in tribute to the wondrous metal before me.  I found myself wishing someone was with me while I was listening to this.  This will be an instant live staple.  I love the ending riff of this song, which repeats over and over again, and brought to mind for me a kind of heavy metal version of the ending to “Layla” by Derek and the Dominoes.

“THE ABYSS” – At times this track veers more towards Alice in Chains rather than the Sabbath-based approach that usually dominates their material.  Rearing its not so ugly head again is the doom metal sound I mentioned earlier.  In general, I am not a fan of the style of doom metal.  However I find that the sprinklings of doom throughout this album are simply a great compliment to the songs.  Once again another terrific Orange Goblin instant classic.

“TITAN” – The first of two instrumentals on the album, “Titan” may actually be my favorite piece of music on Back From The Abyss.  Very reminiscent of Iron Maiden, as well as shades of Thin Lizzy once again.  Even more surprising is that parts of this song actually remind me of Dream Theater or Queensryche.  Just another example of Orange Goblin having a lot more up their tattooed sleeve than we thought they did.

“BLOOD OF THEM” – With lyrics inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, and even more diversity in the vocal approach, “Blood of Them” comes across as an extremely heavy track both lyrically and sonically.   Love the spoken word at the beginning of the song.  Simply another great track on this album.

“THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH” – The second instrumental on Back From The Abyss ends the album in style.  I found that this track reminds of “The Zoo” by the Scorpions, but with many more riffs and some off-beats.  Just a great guitar-based track which again proves that melody is becoming king to Orange Goblin.  In an interview, Ben Ward stated that they are thinking of using this track is their intro when playing live.  That would be a great choice.

In closing, Back From The Abyss impressively proves that Orange Goblin are not just a band writing heavy songs anymore.  Orange Goblin are songwriters that happen to play heavy rock and roll.  What category do you put Orange Goblin in now?  Who knows and who cares.  All you need to know is that this album is Top Shelf Rock.  Based on my previous experience seeing this band live, I can only imagine how good these songs will be to see live.  If you get the chance to see Orange Goblin live, you must do so.

5/5 stars

Ester Segarra

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4 comments

      1. Me too!

        I particularly love ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’; so much so that I read a really great book this year called ‘Shadows Over Innsmouth’ a collection of short stories by other writers all set in/around Innsmouth – if you can get hold (and haven’t already) you really need this – the quality of 90% of them are great.

        Liked by 1 person

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