Goblin, Billboard The Venue, Melbourne - 14/07/2013

Goblin terrified Melbourne with their inimitable Giallo classics on a chilly Sunday night. Goblin creep, bolt and stalk from the very heart of metal itself…

Without Goblin, we’d be without metal. Well, not entirely, but metal as we currently understand it. These Italian maestros of malevolence drew up the blueprints for “scary music” in the 1970s. Mike Patton’s infusion of Italian prog and pop stems from the funky shifts and odd moods of Goblin as much as it does Ennio Morricone’s frontier brass. Devin Townsend’s dives into insanity hark back to Goblin’s union of synth and guitar string. Black Sabbath might have assembled the Frankenstein of metal with the “devil’s sound;” bulky, soulless riffs snarling of vengeful Gods and monsters. Goblin, by contrast, near singlehandedly wrote horror’s unspoken language.

Goblin appeared on Australian shores in November of last year, their first time ever. At the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, they played Suspiria in tandem with the film. An encore performance held in Melbourne Town Hall featured them playing an organ with “10,000 or something pipes,” as keyboardist Claudio Simonetti described it. In the decidedly boxy and utilitarian space of Billboard the Venue, how would their dread-filled scores fare?

Chandeliers gently swayed over their space and snippets of Giallo films blazed behind. A touch more would’ve been overkill. Goblin favoured a less-is-more visual approach. They’d never played Billboard yet maximised the use of all its stock standard lights and rigs. We stood transfixed as they soaked the place in vermillion as icy jabs of Profondo Rosso punctuated the air. Snakes of deep blue zig-zagged across the ceiling, reducing the band to silhouettes. Massimo Morante teased cries from his guitar, peeling away the dread of cathedral organs. Morante tried hard to count out measures using his hands, but never kept it in time. His dexterity wasn’t lost on his white Gibson Les Paul, though. Limber hands mesmerised the frets with a black magic we thought dwelled inside his bones.

A whoop of cheers thundered for Zombi, better known as George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Chaotic scenes followed the gnashing belts of synth organ to herald an attack of the walking dead. Claudio squared off with fellow keymaster Maurizio Guarini. The thermometer plunged a few degrees as we were led into the zombie-filled maelstrom. Goblin, thankfully, don’t play to a metronome. A human element pervaded their show, lending the music an air of unpredictability. They played as tight as one can expect. Thing is, Goblin aren’t fussed with pro-tool perfection, which drove their nails in further.

Claudio instructed us to sing along to the theme from Suspiria, “just like a Sunday in church.” seeing Massimo stool-perched on mandolin duty. Later, Claudio prompted us to “dance to this one” – Tenebre, naturally, talking with vocoder strapped to his head. Its spooky nature seemed to overflow across the boards. Claudio trilled his way through the funky number, assaulting us with thuds of bass and synth. Theremin artist Miles Brown, Goblin’s unlikely patron, joined them as their “special guest” (although Massimo wasn’t quite convinced) barrelling down selections from Phenomena. The theremin looks like it's fit for a mad sonic wizard by virtue of its manipulations. It’s like he's an evil puppeteer with no marionettes attached. Miles made it look easy. Jennifer Connelly ran down hallways and hapless victims sliced themselves escaping from rooms of razor wire. It all just drew us into their mondo bizarro world and left us craving for more. Luckily they returned after lights dimmed to play another selection from Dawn of the Dead.

Phil Anselmo once remarked of Goblin “There are few bands more technically adept at creating an actual atmosphere of tension, occult speculation, or delicate knife-twisting suspense than Goblin.” Phil knows exactly what he’s talking about. It’s a musical and visual experience that ought not to be missed.