Thursday, November 6, 2014

Orange Goblin - Back from the Abyss review

Good old irony.

No sooner had I finished (finally) writing my review of Overkill's latest album, and applauding them for still kicking a considerable amount of ass after all these years, then what should happen?  Well, my copy of the new Orange Goblin album arrives, and on first listen it's immediately apparent that this band is also currently kicking more ass than they have in their 20 year history.

Anyway, I won't rehash that angle quite so soon, so what I will say is this: Back From the Abyss is a beer-sculling, sweat-drenched, gasoline-fuelled hard rock rampage.

The title is actually a sly reference to the band's return to prominence on the back of previous album A Eulogy for the Damned.  Having put out some outstanding early material in the form of the psychedelic Time Travelling Blues (1998), and the full throttle ride of The Big Black (2000), the band got a bit stuck in a Groundhog Day-ish loop of producing further solid, but unremarkable, hard rock albums - increasingly taking a less zany and more raw approach.

Apparently they almost called it quits, but then out came A Eulogy for the Damned and it proved to be something of a rebirth for the band - it was much more energetic, recaptured some of their earlier distinctiveness, and proved to be a big hit with the fans.  And crucially it got them firmly back on the map, a ton of tour dates and festival slots followed, and all of a sudden they're Back From the Abyss.

This is undoubtedly an album from a band that has some serious momentum right now.  It has even more of a sense of unabashed energy and enthusiasm than its predecessor, but there's also a sense of swagger from a band who took a chance and had it pay off for them big-time.

In fact one of the album's greatest attributes is the abundance of 'fuck yeah' moments.  I was starting to wonder if this was becoming something of a lost rock tradition - thinking here of classic moments like when the opening riff eventually hits in Kyuss' Freedom Run, when Bruce Dickinson lets rip with that opening "YEEEEEAAHHHHH" in the Maiden classic The Number of the Beast, when Them Crooked Vultures FINALLY let rip half-way through No One Loves Me (And Neither Do I).  You know, those riffs and moments that just make your jaw drop and/or your head bang every time.

Turns out that the Goblin have a serious supply of those, like the bit at 3:27 of Demon Blues where they simultaneously launch into a wicked ascending riff and an appropriately bluesy guitar solo.  Or the abrupt tempo shift at 4:10 of Heavy Lies the Crown that evolves into an epic Viking war cry - if the "TO VALHALLA! FIELDS OF THUNDER! HALLS OF POWER! TORN ASUNDER!" chant does not make you feel the need to wield a battle axe, then you have no soul.  Or the seriously groovy riff that ends the chorus on Into the Arms of Morpheus, accompanied by the lyrics "Praise the Valium!".  Or the solo section in Mythical Knives.  You get the idea.

Actually, it might be a bit unfair to just pick out singular moments like that because Back From the Abyss is actually a bloody good listen from start to finish.  There's traditional groove-heavy stoner-rock (Sabbath Hex, Ubermensch), to some serious, unashamed Motorhead-channeling biker rock (The Devil's Whip, Bloodzilla) and they even revisit their old-school psychedelic approach on Into the Arms of Morpheus (I haven't heard them do snare fills like that since Time Travelling Blues!).  Somehow they've managed to capture everything I love about Orange Goblin in one place without it ever sounding like a hodge-podge.

Probably the biggest compliment I can pay this record is to say that it exudes rock and roll in a very similar fashion to Clutch's Earth Rocker.  There's that same consistent, compelling urge to just get up and move, that same undeniable energy.  This is definitely the best hard rock album I've heard so far this year.

Back From the Abyss, indeed.  And long may it stay like that.

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