A Eulogy for the Damned
posted on 2/2012 By:
Although London institution Orange Goblin has been kicking ass consistently for fifteen years, it is somewhat recently that the band has really perfected the blend of Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and Down - the kind of hard-rocking, thick-grooving, bottle-smashing outlaw stoner metal that’s so easy to overlook but so hard to live without. In fact, to hell with all this talk of ‘stoner metal’ - it seems safer to say that Orange Goblin plays whiskey metal. Still, it must be admitted that earlier in its career, the band sounded much more like a friend to the toked, fumed, jived, and spaced, with an acid wash of psychedelia swirling about that plotted something of a midpoint between the Hell’s Angels and the Haight-Ashbury crowd. Though the band tinkered between each record, it has been with its past two records - 2004’s Thieving from the House of God and 2007’s Healing Through Fire - that this dirtier, groovier, more rock and goddamn roll incarnation of its sound has been honed to a fine, shank-worthy point. And now, with new record A Eulogy for the Damned, Orange Goblin graciously continues the noble business of just being Orange Goblin.
So yes, this means that the band isn’t really taking any risks, but this is a band that calls itself Orange Goblin fer Chrissakes, and whose Metal-Archives profile lists lyrical themes such as “drugs, space travel, [and] relationships.” That is to say, you really shouldn’t be expecting some sort of high concept Deathspell Omega on a dirtbike. That having been said, it would be disingenuous to suggest that A Eulogy for the Damned finds Orange Goblin simply in a holding pattern. True, it is basically more of the same foot-stomping, blues-licking, drink-spilling goodness, but it’s just, well, better. The riffs fly off Joe Hoare’s fingers a bit more sweetly, Chris Turner’s kit grooves chug a bit more fluidly, everything just rocks a bit more rockingly, and vocalist Ben Ward still sounds like he ate a window for breakfast.
Throughout A Eulogy for the Damned, Orange Goblin plays a loose vibe tightly, and proves with its blue-collar-no-bullshit work ethic my long-held maxim that heavy metal always needs to take itself both more and less seriously. By which I mean, for example, that when Ward spits out a line like “The ultimate fall of mankind!” in “Red Tide Rising,” it’s in the lusty spirit of a classically-trained Shakespearean actor chewing the hell out of his lines in a B-movie. Camp, not irony.
It’s more apparent here than ever, though, that the band’s secret weapon is bassist Martyn Millard, whose always-active bass doubles the guitar, jams out its own fleet runs, and generally keeps things anchored firmly downward and dustward. In fact, his performance on this record is probably the closest thing to a biker metal Steve Harris one is likely to find. But really, everyone turns in a fittingly hungry performance on these tunes, which are some of the strongest the band has penned, from the main riff in “Red Tide Rising” which both stutters and swaggers, to the chorus of “Bishop’s Wolf,” which digs in hard before the song’s midsection cuts loose, to the full band instrumental break in “The Fog” that sounds like the stoner metal equivalent of the epic instrumental break in “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.”
And sure, there’s a cowbell break thrown in there somewhere, but it somehow doesn’t throw me into a fit of post-ironic rage because, damn, listen to the riff that kicks in just before the two-minute mark in “Acid Trial” - that’s the sort of godly groove that Orange Goblin seems capable of tossing off as easily as if they were licking envelopes. Both “Save Me From Myself” and “A Eulogy for the Damned” see Ward pulling out some understated clean singing that’s an absolute dead ringer for Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf, with the title track in particular blossoming into a nice jam, where whorls of biting organ provide a comfortable cushion for the kind of classically bluesy, largely directionless guitar soloing that works so well over a full-band fadeout.
With a full five-year gap between this and the last record, there was some concern that Orange Goblin might have either lost their fire or felt the dreaded approach of “maturity,” returning with some senselessly sensitive, noodly progressive affair. But praise be to the gods of booze and thunder, both disasters have been averted, and A Eulogy for the Damned may just be the best record of Orange Goblin’s rock-solid career. “More of the same, but better” can be a damned fine slogan indeed, so pop the kickstand and ride on, brothers and sisters.
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