Orange Goblin - Back from the Abyss - (8/10)
Published on October 7, 2014
In space, no one can hear you sing along.
With a new album entitled Back from the Abyss, it’s not a great stretch to assume that Orange Goblin may have deemed their last full-length effort, 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned, as something of a career low point. Of course, such postulation is simply not true as lead vocalist Ben Ward himself, in a September 2013 interview with Decibel’s Jonathan Horsely, affirmed that Eulogy was “…far and away the best thing we’ve ever recorded…”
Okay, so the aforesaid suggestion clearly holds no water. But if one did have to order the Orange Goblin albums, is it outlandish to think that Eulogy may reside near the bottom? After all, looking upon the London quartet’s robust discography of hard-hitting and grungy stonerized doom metal and picking a favorite record is about as subjective as a light beer blind-taste test.
This isn’t to say that Orange Goblin’s brand of rock and metal resembles the listless flavors found in Bud or Coors, but such is the uniformity of their output that declaring one superior over the other would result in one long and unproductive drinking session – if those do exist. Similar to the mighty Grand Magus, Orange Goblin perform their brand of music at a level of such expert comfort and naturalness that it borders on complacency – if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it and so on. Such is the sense of airy contentment that wrought this reviewer upon listening to A Eulogy for the Damned.
But thanks be to the gods of metal and stone for Orange Goblin, despite believing that they (Ward) truly created their best album two years prior, have already trumped such a monumental effort with Back from the Abyss, an album that still feels benign in its delivery but likewise irresistibly grooved over and rife with soon-to-be classics…kind of like Eulogy.
Case in point the album highlight “Heavy Lies the Crown.” Rolling out of the gates with a bluesy amble, this song seems to be the quintessential example of a band, at the peak of their confidence, going full-on anthem mode and simply not giving a damn. The guitars of Joe Hoare cleave through the air and Martyn Millard’s bass bubbles in waves below the sturdy calls of Ward, a man whose lyrics have begun to hit an even more adventurous tone than normal. The bravado and chest-beating leadership Ward imbues with this song and several others, like the hardy “Übermensch” or the penultimate “Blood of Them,” adds an empowering quality that is ultimately very novel to the Orange Goblin canon. In fact, in line with the band’s musical progressions, there is a concerted heavy metal narrative and style to Back from the Abyss that should cater warmly to fans of the previously addressed Swedish kings, Grand Magus.
Fuzz advocates may feel a bit peeved at the band’s continued clean-and-crisp direction, but, in defense of a subgenre typically geared towards a guitar-and-vox-dominated production, Back from the Abyss is delightfully even, open, and organic, a feature that allows Chris Turner’s drums to kick like a steed and Millard’s bass to breathe a voice of its own. Tempo-wise, Orange Goblin blend the faster Motörhead riffs (“The Devil’s Whip”) with a Black Sabbath-meets-Thin Lizzy strut over the course of a dozen tracks that each offer their own peculiar wallop; the album’s longest track, “Into the Arms of Morpheus,” is a brooding and crooning slow-shaker, “Titan” is a sleek and soaring instrumental shorty that embraces the album cover’s outer space backdrop, and the Lovecraftian “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” another instrumental piece, acts as a mood-and-doom sendoff to an album that shared more than a few bright spots.
For those overjoyed with Orange Goblin’s prior effort in A Eulogy for the Fans, Back from the Abyss offers even more surly and burly British stoner rock to whet their metal mouths. It’s not an overhaul, nor is it a redirection; what you have is a solid-as-steel, Harley-driving hard rock record played by genre veterans who know all too well how to bang your head.