Back from the Abyss

Tom and Meat’s Top Whatever of 2014

For my Top Five of 2014, click here.

For Dr. Dave’s Top Ten of 2014, click here.

For the Top Whatever of No Pre-Determined Amount from two of Canada’s most knowledgeable rock gods, stay tuned right here.  From Meaford Ontario, weighing in at XXX lbs, it’s Iron Tom Sharpe, who turns it up to 11.

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Tom’s Top Eleven of 2014

BEN WARD11. Various ArtistsRONNIE JAMES DIO: This Is Your Life
10. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Single Mothers
9. MASTODON Once More ‘Round the Sun
8. EARLY MAN – Thank God You’ve Got the Answers For Us All
7. OPETH – Pale Communion
6. JOHN GARCIA – John Garcia
5. ST. PAUL & the BROKEN BONES – Half the City
4. sHEAVY – The Best Of sHeavy – A Misleading Collection
3. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans
2. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss


Saving the best for last, here’s Uncle Meat.  For added rocket sauce he’s also given me his top movies of 2014.

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Meat’s Top Eight of 2014

Copy of IMG_20140706_0857128. MASTODONOnce More ‘Round the Sun
7. ECHO AND THE BUNNYMENMeteorites
6. FOO FIGHTERSSonic Highways
5. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC – Mandatory Fun
4. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
3. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
2. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS English Oceans
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From the Abyss

Meat’s Top Twelve Movies of 2014

WHIPLASH12. Lucy
11. X Men : Days of Future Past
10. St. Vincent
9. Interstellar
8. The Lego Movie
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Get On Up
2. Birdman
1. Whiplash


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Dr. Dave’s List: Top Ten of 2014

A brief introduction to Dr. Dave: Not only is he one of Sausagefest’s most notable regulars, but he’s a talented musician too.  That’s him playing guitar on “The Maiden Song” from 2013.  He’s brought a completely different crop of bands to mikeladano.com with his Top Ten of 2014.  Enjoy.  (For my top ten, click here.)

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DR. DAVE’S Top Ten of 2014

Due to some disappointing releases from the likes of Mogwai, Interpol, and the Drive-By-Truckers, my Top 10 is heavy on the metal. What might surprise some people is the number of bands that fall close to, if not well within, the orbit of “black metal.” Yes, this most unfashionable of metal sub-genres has a glacier’s weight of the shitty and silly behind it, but in recent years it has evolved into the most creative force in metal. The vocals are always a dodgy proposition, but I don’t care. At a time when I was bored with the same-old blues-based root-5th power chord ho-hum I’ve heard this 87000 times since last Tuesday shtick, the blizzardy blast-beating barrage of newer BM bands came as a breath of fresh air. So, without further ado…

10. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend

If only for album closer “Marrow.” As the title suggests, this is as much a spiritual as a musical investment. This is not for the attention deficit disorder crowd – in fact, nothing on my list is. On his playthisriff.com website, Bob Balch of Fu Manchu cites YOB as one of the most requested, and difficult to produce, sources of guitar tablature. Must be all those eerie suspended chords. This is not your Uncle’s doom, trotting out the usual second-rate Sabbath bilge. Dive in or stay home. There is no in-between.


9. BLUT AUS NORD – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

Along with the mighty Deathspell Omega, BAN forms the ungodly one-two punch of French avant-garde black metal. They have as much in common with Arnold Schoenberg as they do with classic heavy metal, and it shows. This is alien music, unsettled and unsettling melodies trapped in a churning maelstrom of rhythm. Yet from the chaos emerges moments of glorious and triumphant power. MVIII features a real drummer and a more organic feel, and while I prefer MVII, this is still undeniable. It will surely alienate conventional music listeners, and that’s fine. If you want to know what Cthulu has on his iPod, well, now you know.


8. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss

Damn. For years I figured Time-Travelling Blues would forever remain my favorite Orange Goblin album. Then they came out with Eulogy for the Damned and challenged that assumption. This does the same thing. They’re not a radically different band now, they just delve deeper into their talent and influences and deliver more accomplished material. They’re hitting a middle-aged stride. Better come along for the ride. And hopefully they come back to these parts – they’re a must-see live band.


7. OPETH– Pale Communion

Wasn’t overly impressed with their last one, but this is killer. They’re not really a metal band anymore, and that’s okay. Any fan of 70’s prog should be all over this like Bill Cosby on a drowsy lady. I’ve always preferred my prog with a healthy helping of balls, and this delivers. Proof positive that metal boasts some of the most versatile and forward-looking musicians of any genre, anywhere, anywhen, anyhow.


6. MASTODON – Once More Round the Sun

As with Orange Goblin, I figured the Highway to Hell, Moving Pictures, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, Queen II-rule would still apply – namely, that the album that first got me into the band would always be my favorite. Once More Round the Sun may, in time, dethrone Leviathan as my favorite Mastodon album. Obviously I’m not one of those dicks who argue that because they’ve gained mainstream popularity they’ve gone soft and toothless. Their use of melody has been honed to a razor’s sharpness, and they swing like pretty much no other metal band can. They are capable of anything, and where they will go from here is anybody’s guess.


5. TRIPTYKON – Melana Chasmata

Thomas Gabriel Fischer is best known as the force behind Celtic Frost. While I missed the boat on his latest project’s initial album (Eparistera Daimones), this one has had me by the short and curlies for a month now. Oozing with menace and dripping with spite, this is a lurching, gargantuan slab of primordial darkness. Album opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is ridiculous, but it’s the relatively subdued “Aurorae” that really hooked me. A brooding slow-burner, it adds layers and intensity in a post-metal fashion that builds to a neatly twisted guitar solo.


4. PALLBEARER – Foundations of Burden

I can understand why even some metalheads don’t cotton to the doom. It’s slow, it’s gloomy, it’s repetitive. And then comes Pallbearer, four guys from Arkansas, and everything you think you know about doom can be deposited in a small sack and buried six hundred and sixty-six feet beneath Ozzy’s decapitated bat. The melodic richness of “The Ghost I Used To Be” is a perfect example of where doom is going now because of these guys.


3. WINTERFYLLETH – The Divination of Antiquity

The most quintessentially English black metal band, Winterfylleth combines the charging rhythms and regal melodies of Iron Maiden with the blast beats and tremolo picking of black metal to create a supercharged English folk music for the 21st Century. It’s about the riffs with these guys – slight alterations in fingering create micro-melodic textures within the dominant keys, creating the “blizzardy” tremolo-picked sound of black metal. These guys have it down to a science. “A Careworn Heart” is a lot more relaxed, but you will get the drift.


2. AGALLOCH – The Serpent and the Sphere

For my money, the emergence of “post-black metal” has been the best thing to happen in metal this century, other than the “post-metal” of Isis and like bands. So, not surprisingly, Isis and Agalloch are my two favorite bands to emerge since 2000. The Serpent and the Sphere isn’t the instant classic that Ashes Against the Grain and Marrow of the Spirit were, but this is an epic addition to a nearly flawless discography nonetheless. These forest-dwellers from Oregon have perfected the folksy, pagan, post-rock mutation of black metal like no one else. Lyrical and uplifting while still rooted (distantly) in a style of metal known for the ugly and evil. As usual, it’s the build-up and crescendo that is the goal. “Plateau of the Ages” brings it, and then some.


1. PANOPTICON – Roads To The North

Blackgrass? Blue Metal? I don’t know what you’d call it, but genius Austin Lunn has combined his love of grim and frostbitten Norwegian black metal with the bluegrass of his native Kentucky, resulting in an album of unbridled originality. He’s an incredibly versatile guitarist, an insane drummer, and lays down some of the best bass ever heard on a black metal album. I envy this dude in a serious way. In order to fully grasp it, you have to hear all three parts of “The Long Road” in succession, all the way through. You can hear the black metal in the bluegrass parts and the bluegrass in the black metal parts. Fucking genius. Album of the year, regardless of genre.

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