Review Summary: For the better or worse, Orange Goblin releases another Orange Goblin album.
Orange Goblin still has four of their founding members- with the exception of second guitarist Pete O’Malley who departed in 2004. Not only this but over 8 albums, the quality of their music has always been consistently high while their style of fuzzy and adrenalized stoner rock has never faltered. Alongside Electric Wizard as the leaders of the UK stoner/doom scene, these credentials are undeniably admirable considering Orange Goblin has been around for 23 years, a duration that could be considered a life time for most bands. However, for all these praises, one could argue that due to the band’s lengthy lack of development and progression, Orange Goblin has simply been chasing the dragon all this time.
This four-piece from jolly old London has tirelessly followed the unwritten rule-of-thumb: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and after the simple yet sturdy “Back from The Abyss”
, their lack of experimentation or dare was beginning to seem ever more noticeable. Luckily, their new album, “The Wolf Bites Back”
lives up to its defiant title. Acoustic guitars open the title track which twists into winding riffs and “In Bocca al Lupo” is a short bluesy instrumental track akin to Thin Lizzy that separates two straightforward rockers in the album’s sequencing. Behind the swaying rhythms of “The Stranger”, Orange Goblin unveil subtle bubbly keyboards that elevate the dazing, drunken atmosphere and throughout the album, the band flavour their greasy music with dashes of short stoner interludes where drifting melodies will suddenly materialise or the bass section takes centre stage, darkening Orange Goblin’s upbeat tones. While these developments are nothing unheard of, in this instance, they are certainly welcome inclusions.
Nevertheless, those that are happy to hear an album that is just ‘more of the same’ will find “The Wolf Bites Back”
accommodating in every way- not that more of what Orange Goblin do is a bad thing, of course. “Sons of Salem” opens the album in ferouscious fashion where bounding guitars leap into action while Ben Ward’s easy chorus: “Rise up, sons of Salem!” easily proves to be the most joyous and infectious moment on the album. On the topic of lyrics, you don’t need strong lyrics when you have riffs. “Suicide Division” has a punky snarl to it, “Burn the Ships” features weird stalking grooves and “Renegade” is the aptest tribute song to Lemmy any band has created thus far. It’s fast-paced, its catchy and there are no soft edges in the riffs and vocals alike. Likewise, Ben Ward’s vocals still sound as if he downs whiskey mixed with a hint of sand and a twist of gravel, differentiating only on “Swords of Fire” where he defiantly gurgles his way through psychedelic grooves before snapping into attack mode.
Orange Goblin is a cherished band in the UK. They are the very model of consistency. Their albums and live performances are never bad, their variation of speedy stoner rock is highly appealing and when you put that all together you find that they’re just a cool band. And, for such a cool band to not tamper with their rock-steady sound would be such a waste of potential. “The Wolf Bites Back”
is equally forgetful as it is successful; an album that is full of excellent moments but as a whole isn’t all that excellent and an album that is definitely well worth the ride but probably wouldn’t go again. If it ain’t broke but looks rusty, fix it.