There is a school of thought that says once your band begins to gain some commercial success then creativity suffers as the hunger diminishes. Of course, this is bollocks; you only have to look at bands like Iron Maiden – who arrived hungry and continued to remain so as each album brought them a new set of challenges – to realise that just because you don’t have to work in a factory during the day to fund your rock n’ roll dreams doesn’t mean you can sit back and take it easy. When London-based metal mob Orange Goblin released “A Eulogy For the Damned” in 2012 it was well publicised that the band could afford to give up their day jobs and concentrate on their music full-time after 18 years. It came as something of a relief, then, that “…Damned” – their seventh album – was an excellent album, full of the Sabbath-meets-Motörhead hymns to rock n’ roll excess that we have come to expect but with a production that tidied things up a bit.
And so we come to album number eight, and it gives me great pleasure to report that the band haven’t gone soft and released an album of power ballads or gone all emo. In fact, “Back From the Abyss” opens on such a life-affirming riff that leads into the rolling thunder of ‘Sabbath Hex’ that you’ll feel quite silly for even doubting them; “Do you understand?/Raise your right hand” yells man-mountain singer Ben Ward (no relation) as if to demand your allegiance to the cause of rollicking metal.
The full-on Motörhead worship of ‘The Devil’s Whip’ – listen carefully and you’ll swear you can hear ‘Ace of Spades’ in the guitar work – has been available online for a few weeks but within the context of the album it works even better, separating the heavy swagger of ‘Übermensch’ and the more melodic ‘Demon Blues’. And speaking of blues, ‘Heavy Lies the Crown’ is so full of bar-room attitude and catchy vocal hooks that it could well become a new rallying cry for band and fans alike, especially if they play it live on their upcoming UK tour.
Although “Back From the Abyss” doesn’t stylistically deviate from anything that Orange Goblin have done before there is an undercurrent of maturity running through the material. “A Eulogy For the Damned” was certainly a more noticeable step-up in production from what the band had done before and this new album continues that progression in their overall sound; for instance, take a song like ‘Mythical Knives’ that begins with a gently picked semi-acoustic guitar intro before exploding into the familiar territory of thick guitar riffs and groove-laden drums. The subtle touches like the picked intro and a clear bass drum sound make enough of a difference that the song feels fresh, all the while staying true to Orange Goblin‘s ’70s-inspired stoner/doom metal roots.
Overall, “Back From the Abyss” is another triumph for Orange Goblin, maintaining a consistent level of songwriting and performance all the way through it’s twelve tracks that make this their most accomplished album to date. Proof that hard work does indeed pay off.