In Praise Of Orange Goblin By Dom Lawson
On the eve of their 15th Anniversary tour, Dom Lawson gives praise to the mighty Orange Goblin! Get Orange Goblin tickets here!
Against the odds, I remember it well. It was 1997 and I was heroically stoned and listening to a superb doom metal compilation called Dark Passages II, a top-drawer collection of slow-burning heavy metal monstrosities from Cathedral frontman Lee Dorrian’s Rise Above label that included tracks by such morose luminaries as Eyehategod, Pentagram, Trouble and Electric Wizard. It was the opening track that really grabbed my attention, however…a rambling but rambunctious burst of electrifying, fuzzed-up heavy metal by a young London band called Orange Goblin.
All I knew about them was that they were previously known as Our Haunted Kingdom and had released one split seven-inch single with Electric Wizard a few months earlier. But I didn’t really need to know anything else about them, because it was abundantly fucking obvious that this band were fantastic. And, 13 years later (and 15 years on from the birth of the band), Orange Goblin are still fucking fantastic and one of the truly great British heavy metal bands of the modern age.
From a fan’s perspective, it remains a mystery why they have never been given the credit they deserve for being an omnipresent force for rock’n’roll good over the last decade-and-a-bit, but as they commemorate their 15th anniversary it only seems fitting to celebrate their music and to proudly salute these dogged die-hards for their many years of tireless service to the metal cause. If you’ve never seen Orange Goblin live, they’re hitting the road for their UK tour, starting on December 15 in Manchester. Don’t miss out. Your liver won’t thank you, but your ears definitely will. And if for some insane reason you need to brush up on your Orange Goblin knowledge before you hurl yourself into their world of booze-sodden mayhem, check out these highlights from their illustrious catalogue of albums. And play them loud.
1. MAGIC CARPET (from Frequencies From Planet Ten, 1997)
If you want to know what British stoner rock sounded like in the mid ‘90s, this thunderous anthem is pretty much the perfect encapsulation of the entire scene. The purest essence of Black Sabbath, revitalised and given a hefty kick up the catflap by a new generation of bong-wielding, beer-guzzling longhaired wastrels…what’s not to like? Remarkably, it still sounds fresh and exhilarating all these years later.
2. BLUE SNOW (from Time Travelling Blues, 1998)
The Stoner rock explosion produced plenty of thrilling moments, but there was also an incredible amount of perfunctory, half-arsed, generic twaddle being churned out. Orange Goblin always had more class than that, and by the time their second album arrived the Londoners were already moving steadily away from the pack and establishing their own distinctive sound. This powerhouse album opener owes as much to mid-tempo Motörhead as it does to Sabbath, and over a decade later it still crushes all-comers at OG shows.
3. SCORPIONICA (from The Big Black, 2000)
Now firmly established as one of the finest heavy metal bands in the UK, Orange Goblin really hit their stride on their third album. This bombastic scene-setter remains one of the band’s biggest crowd-pleasers, and with riffs the size of Saturn and with a sublime dynamic sense that echoed the mellifluous brilliance of Kyuss, their sound was evolving in tandem with their confidence as live performers. This kicks arse.
4. QUINCY THE PIGBOY (from The Big Black, 2000)
Kicking off right after Scorpionica, this second half of Orange Goblin’s greatest ever album-opening brace is another sure-fire live favourite and another great example of how the band have consistently combined the insouciant rumble of stoner rock with balls-out heavy fucking metal to great effect. Frontman Ben Ward is on top form here, too; his idiosyncratic, rabble-rousing roar breaking through rock’n’roll’s fourth wall to incite a riot of lager-fuelled bad behaviour.
5. GETTING HIGH ON THE BAD TIMES (From Coup De Grace, 2002)
Dirty, raw and seemingly a lot more punk-influenced than their first three albums, Coup De Grace divided the vote somewhat when it emerged back in 2002; former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder’s in-your-face production job proving too much for some of Orange Goblin’s more resolutely red-eyed fans. In hindsight, it’s an album with several stunning moments, and this is the best of ‘em: a neat encapsulation of the OG philosophy, delivered with all their customary snottiness and sass.
6. SOME YOU WIN, SOME YOU LOSE (From Thieving From The House Of God, 2003)
Kicking off with one of the greatest Orange Goblin riffs of them all, the first track on the band’s fifth album saw them return to their classic sound, but with renewed levels of power and songwriting suss driving them to new heights. Thieving From The House Of God is arguably the most focused of the band’s six albums to date, and Billy Anderson’s monstrous production ensures that everything explodes with the same sense of celebratory abandon that has long been a staple feature of OG live shows. It’s a rock’n’roll thing!
7. ROUND UP THE HORSES
There are few things better that heavy metal songs about cowboys, and this highlight from Thieving… is one of the greatest you’ll ever hear. Big, muscular, grinding metal riffs whipped up into a rampaging, tobacco-spittin’ groove are the order of the day, as Orange Goblin live out their High Plains Drifter fantasies at maximum volume. Why aren’t more bands this much fun?
8. THE BALLAD OF SOLOMON EAGLE (from Healing Through Fire, 2007)
The heaviest and best Orange Goblin album begins in typically strident and effusive fashion with this archetypal barnstormer that sounds custom-designed to get heads banging. When Ben Ward bellows “I think I’m losing my mind!” in the song’s chorus, it’s hard not to think that he probably means it in a good way. This is thrilling good times heavy metal, aimed squarely at the hard-drinkin’ old school contingent…and anyone else who fancies some proper music instead of yet more whiny, generic metalcore.
9. CITIES OF FROST (From Healing Through Fire, 2007)
By allowing some of their heavier and more extreme influences to sneak into their sound, the Goblin boys revealed a hitherto unheard propensity for grim atmospheres on this pounding, black-hearted metal monster. The title is something of a giveaway, because the misanthropic melodrama of Celtic Frost is very much a looming, spectral influence here. More importantly, perhaps, this is a long way from the boisterous stoner rock that the band are best known for.
10. THEY COME BACK (HARVEST OF SKULLS) (from Healing Through Fire, 2007)
Another live favourite, this macabre tale of divine retribution brilliantly brings Orange Goblin’s earth-shaking heavy metal chops together with their largely unsung knack for dark-but-kitsch horror imagery and sinister storytelling. Ben Ward even gets away with a throat-rending death growl just before the song’s neck-wrecking midsection kicks into gear. Down your beer, crank this up and windmill like a motherfucker. Hail the mighty Goblin!