It’s 2018 and in short order the majority of the mainstream folks I work with have been variously excited by the FA cup final, a royal wedding, the forthcoming Steps and Aqua show in Dundee (I shit you not folks!), and now the forthcoming world cup. Not one of those things cause my adrenalin to flow, or my heart beat to rise, at most garnering a quizzically raised eyebrow when I have to have them explained to me, and when they are, a jaw wrenching yawn. However, one event that I have been looking forward to is the new Orange Goblin album ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ (and accompanying tour with Scottish dates, hint hint guys!), albeit that excitement is somewhat tempered with the trepidation that the gents couldn’t possibly hit the same heights as ‘Back From The Abyss’, their prior release which garnered one of my rather rare 9/10 scores.
Well fuck me if the band didn’t raise a collective middle finger at my worries before kicking them beyond the horizon with the fire and the fury that is ‘The Wolf Bites Back’! Chris Turner blasts out an intro to ‘Sons of Salem’ that opens the proceedings with an energy and vigour that belays the band’s now deserved veteran status, a near quarter of a century of recording and touring leaving their enthusiasm for music unjaded and undiminished. The sheer power of the band continues unabated in title track ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ riff machine extraordinaire Joe Hoare starting gently enough with a few strokes of an acoustic guitar before the bass beast that is Mr Millard joins the fray to herald a bombardment of drums, the three instrumentalists of the band coming together in a chugging barrage of notes over which bellows the mighty Ben Ward, his delivery as lean and hungry as the titular beasts of the song. This is a number that has to become one of the staples of future shows, joining their every growing portfolio of essential metal anthems crying out to be played live to an appreciative audience. The non stop pummelling continues with ‘Renegade’, a song that whilst I’ve no confirmation of it, sounds like a combined eulogy and biographical tribute to the late lamented Lemmy, a man who was surely a “renegade”, “dressed in all black”, had “no remorse”, was a “rock and roll outlaw”, “lived for speed”, had been “on parole”, and was “the son of a preacher turned to the dark.” You know what, I could be entirely wrong, but if I am, I just don’t want to be right.
Orange Goblin, however, aren’t a single paced whirlwind of hair, tattoos and spilt beer, and things get slow and sludgy for ‘Swords of Fire’, menace dripping from every chord in the first half of the track before big Ben growls forth his tale of swords and slaughter, leading the music into a charge light a warlord leading his soldiers into the fray. Treats galore continue to fly from the speakers, ‘Ghosts of the Primitive’ throwing barbs into the bloated body of religion with a seventies hard rock sensibility, Mr Hoare again proving he is one of the best, and for some reason under-lauded guitarists at work in rock and metal today, as he goes from riff to riff to solo upon solo with a swing and subtlety that belies the band’s bludgeoning image. I personally think this is because with so many years together, and so many shows, the band just works so tightly that no one element ever overshadows the other, each member of the band playing off and driving the others forward. A short, trippy instrumental follows in the form of ‘In Bocca Al Lupo’, and good luck getting your breath back before the audio assault that follows with ‘Suicide Division’ a Misfits like blast of anger inspired by the classic Seventies British undead biker movie ‘Psychomania’, and if you don’t know the movie, I suggest you seek it out and treat yourself (the recent BFI blu is a cracker!). And if this isn’t enough to persuade you that Orange Goblin are not a one trick pony, dive into the country rock sounds of ‘The Stranger’. Don’t, however expect the cheese and rhinestone flag waving drivel of a Garth Brooks song; this is very much in the dark territory of The Man in Black, and if you thought “Will Smith” rather than “Johnny Cash”, go away and slap yourself now, and hard!
Far too long ago I reviewed this band’s last release on this very website, and after praising it to the skies, pointed out that I’d only given it a 9/10 to allow myself some wriggle room in case their next release was even better. Well, praise be to foresight for thinking that far ahead, and all hail to Orange Fucking Goblin for delivering the goods baby!