Review Summary: Here we are, in spite of all odds, while you check your phone. And there’s a guy named Todd.
Nekrogoblin? Goblin-based death metal, right? Play live with a dancing goblin too, just to hammer home their usp? Think you might prefer to check the new Perfect Circle instead? Then you sir, might need to reconsider...
Ok, Nekrogoblin's early work was heavily goblin-themed, and didn't care whether you liked little green creatures or not, but they developed a 'proper' metal side superbly well for Stench, and while Heavy Meta tried, with relative success, to develop and incorporate other sounds, it unfortunately ended up sounding a little unfocused and the clean vocals didn't really sit as comfortably with the harsh growls and screams as they really needed to. 3 years on, and Welcome To Bonkers. Musically, it seems to take a leaf from Dog Fashion Disco and Tub Ring, amongst others, in that there is a whole host of styles going on, but ultimately, this time, Nekrogoblin soak it (almost) all in their own brand of keybord-driven melodeath with complete and total success.
Mold is a perfect introduction to the album, rolling death metal blast beats backed by Nicky Calonne's high-pitched, goblin-esque harsh screeches pummeling the listener into submission. When the clean vocals kick in for the chorus it feels perfectly in tune with the song, unlike so often on Heavy Meta, and it burrows into your brain like the particularly repugnant ear maggot it is. The real beauty of the track is that while on the surface the lyrics support the gimmicky image the band have ("I'm in love with mold"), it becomes fairly clear that there is a bit more depth and metaphorical weight within: "When you believe you’ve lost all hope, when you believe there’s nothing left, then make way for the mold". There seems to be a definite consensus here to fit in with the band's long time obsession with all things goblin, but also allow for a wider interpretation of their lyrics. Probably the most stark example of this is album closer Goblins. Initially the lyrics reflect Calonne's obsession, but dig a little deeper and the goblins referred to seem to be so much more metaphorical allegories for all the singer's problems and issues experienced: "I spend my life surrounded by goblins, it may seem surreal but it’s real to me. And every time I’ve got a problem, there’s only goblins there for me". Ultimately, it sounds like a slightly perverted lyrical take on the classic Twilight Zone episode. Y'know, the one with John Lithgow going crazy in-flight over a gremlin on the wing.
Goblins is also noteworthy for being the most un-death metal track on the album, instead riding in with a piano lead that kinda rolls like a demented Queen take-off, then carries it on with some soft power metal, as displayed previously on their last ep (called, um, Power). Despite being so unusual sounding, Goblins doesn't stick out as much as it could have done from the rest of the album largely because of the album's greates strength: There is so much musical variety on display here that each song is practically its own individual masterpiece. Aside from the two previously mentioned tracks there is the groove-laden Row, which blends into a very House section for its bridge (including a gorgeous synth line), Killing Time (And Space) with its crazy banjo intro and accordian-powered verses, Dressed As Goblins which almost turns into an 80s power ballad for its cleanly sung section, Dragons with its 80s synth intro, speed rap vocals and ska rhythms driving the song, as well as the pure melo-death of Dr Hubert Malbec and the straight up bludgeoning death blast of Skin Thief.
And of course there is the wonderously folk-infected, off kilter, almost pop-sensibility of The Magic Spider. The piano track that drives this song is so wonderful I feel like I could happily just listen to that on its own. The fact that it is supported by some insane/insightful lyrics about the wish-granting powers of these little heard-of arachnids, building up to the death-bridge decrying the difficulty Nicky has in locating said creatures. When it comes out of the bridge and the piano and synth tie in with the ripping guitar, the whole thing becomes majestic, and transcends all description. As it fades out, you can't help but wish it would just kick in again for one last blast. Which of course it does, before bizarrely then playing out to some nice calypso kettle drums. All without feeling even remotely unusual.
Having not heard of Nekrogoblin until recently, and not really being any kind of death metal afficionado, I wasn't particularly expecting a great deal from this, and in all honesty can't even remember why I decided to pick it up in the first place. Sometimes, however, an album can come along that completely blows away any preconceptions that it carries, and reinvigorates my obsession with seeking out new and exciting music that I won't hear any way other than proactively getting hold of myself. This is fantastic; look past the gimmicks and imagery if you need to, because this is such an impressive and rewarding album to listen to again and again.