Orange Goblin - Back From the Abyss (Candlelight Records)

Tempestuous, original, but above all heavy, Orange Goblin return with a career-defining album...
Release Date: 
6 Oct 2014 - 11:30pm

If you had have told me fifteen years ago that British doom act Orange Goblin would still be around in 2014, releasing the most mature, spectacularly listenable music of their career and sitting proudly atop the UK metal tree, I would probably, despite my good manners-based upbringing, have laughed hysterically in your face. Not that OG were bad in those far off days of the twentieth century; it’s just that, as with many other Brit bands of their vintage, the Goblins seemed destined for a career spent at mid table in metal’s third division, some prestige supports for big visiting metal dignitaries being the best they could probably hope for.

Their story since then, is, of course, a salute to the twin pursuits of doing it yourself and sticking to your guns. Despite their impoverished beginnings, Orange Goblin’s dogged insistence that what they do is intrinsically right finally sees them in a position of much deserved respect and admiration. It turns out they were right all along.

Hence we find ourselves listening today to the staggeringly good Back From the Abyss; If last album A Eulogy for the Damned was a revelation to many, BFtA proves it was absolutely not some sort of sludge-happy flash in the pan.  Opening brace Sabbath Hex and Ubermensch lay it down from the get go, both slabs of uncompromising heavy that, whilst not turning over any new sods, definitely let the listener know what’s on the horizon for the next three quarters of an hour or so. The latter track in particularly seems to detail the Goblin modus operandi lyrically, with vocalist Ben Ward in pugnaciously strident form. 

Third track Devil’s Whip invokes the spirit of Motörhead – perhaps a little too closely, but enjoyably nonetheless – whilst the groove happy Demon Blues is the album’s first true standout. Sinuous, oily, febrile, it’s everything a good blues should be, but boosted by a hefty metallic grunt in best OG fashion. It’s freewheeling nature, roving from solid metal through double time snare driven neo thrash to pure classic rock soloing reaaly shows best how much this band have flourished over the last decade and a half. It’s organic, unforced and an absolute pleasure to listen to.

But if Demon Blues alludes to the devils music in the title, following track Heavy Lies the Crown actually sounds bluesy. At least at the track’s opening. From there the song mutates into an epic NWoBHM-inspired epic, Ward’s usual gruff bellow stretching its upper register nicely on the chorus. With the fabulous guitars of Joe Hoare spreading out in every direction from the song’s classic rock core this is Orange Goblin in transcendent form, daring the cynics to daub them as merely a ‘doom band’, welcoming all comers via the gift of the song’s triumphant ‘to Valhalla’ refrain to join them on what now looks to be a pretty exciting future of further metal exploration.

The album’s centre piece, the seven minute long Into the Arms of Morpheus follows the bluesy leanings of the previous two tracks; ushered in by some nice bass work from Martyn Millard in concert with the rock solid foundation of Chris Turner’s drums, …Morpheus then unleashes a gorgeously stentorian riff before the band grind out some more fine, fine heavy gauge aural filth, finally easing out with a slinky jam and once again demonstrating what a versatile outfit they’ve become.

Rollicking seafaring tale Mythical Knives is more what we’ve come to expect from Orange Goblin, being a lurching mid-paced romp, but the same can’t be said for the scintillating Bloodzilla.

Heads down and taking no prisoners, Bloodzilla agin carries a whiff of Motörhead about it, not least in Hoare’s face melting solo which really does come from the line of Fast Eddie Clarke. Ward’s vocal delivery here is heavily redolent of Lemmy too. But whereas Devil’s Whip sounds too consciously like a tribute, Bloodzilla is very much its own song. And it slays.

Semi-title track The Abyss has an almost undetectable, yet still apparent, air of latter-day Iron Maiden about it in its semi-formed chorus, a hint of that band’s last album The Final Frontier. I say semi-formed not in a bad way; it’s just that the chorus such as it is is not allowed to develop lest it interfere with the overall flow of the song. This again shows the maturation of the bad’s songwriting smarts, as I’m sure the band wouldn’t have let such a good chorus possibility go a few years ago. 

Titan is a short instrumental interlude, and then we are into the album’s closing couple of tracks, Blood of Them and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The former reverts to the grinding heaviness we’ve come to love from the band, Ward’s hoarse emotion pushing the song forwards, whilst closer …Innsmouth, another short instrumental brings the blinds down in nicely bombastic style.

It’s been a delight to watch the steady ascent of Orange Goblin over the last twenty years, and to see them now as one of the jewels in British metal’s crown brings me nothing but delight. But you don’t just arrive at such a position of esteem overnight, and Back From the Abyss shows just why the band are now in the place they are – great songs, great performances, this album, and this band, are pretty much where it’s at right now.