Orange Goblin - _Healing Through Fire_
(Mayan / Sanctuary Records, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (7 out of 10)
Despite entertaining song titles that might lead one to believe Orange Goblin possess the same tripped out, intergalactic star struck awe of a band like Monster Magnet, the O.G.s have always been a more grounded biker bar band than their oh-so-doomy marketing would have you believe. Those who would argue otherwise will have to do so retrospectively, as _Healing Through Fire_ finds the band coughing up their most rock-like accessibility to date. I can't imagine anyone smoking weed and expecting this album to take them to another plane, but I can certainly envision legions of long haired headbangers tossing back one beer after another and bobbing their melons to the band's live show.

Personally, I think the term "doom" has been much diluted by association with anything that reeks of a '70s rock influence, either with or without the appropriate forlornness (isn't that what the term "stoner rock" was invented for?). At any rate, you can call this stoner, but there is nothing doom here at all, unless Blue Cheer sounds enough like protean Sabbath to you that you're willing to align all intersecting tangents under the same banner.

Essentially, Orange Goblin have come to embrace the same workmanlike everyman vibe of a group like Black Label Society. The down side is that these equal opportunity grooves have a tendency to flirt a little too closely with the familiar. And what's with all these albums of late that line up their weakest, most derivative songs up front, saving the best for last? Chalk _Healing Through Fire_ up as another of these records. After kicking off with about six songs in a row of riffs so familiar -- so overdone -- it's damn near stultifying, O.G. finally pull it together to salvage a respectable rating with the last three tracks.

"Mortlake (Dead Water)" is an acoustic folk dirge that really doesn't fit in with any of the previous songs, but does serve as an indication that the band are finally through phoning it in and are willing to throw us a bone here. "They Come Back" follows, an uptempo rocker that at least sports a little grimmer musical backbone. The band also mix it up a bit, throwing in a good two minutes of material that diverges from the verse / chorus / verse / guitar solo format of the previous clunkers.

"Beginners Guide to Suicide" wraps things up, and immediately one wonders why this level of quality couldn't have at least been attempted, if not maintained, throughout. A bluesy slow burner that doesn't constantly rely on overdriven guitars, the track allows for an assortment of fills and grace notes that were conspicuously absent on the rest of a mostly mediocre, paint-by-numbers album.

Ben Ward has never been one of my favorite singers in the genre, being mostly a barrel-chested blusterer, and here he gets a little too close to the vocal intonations of Neil Fallon from Clutch, but he seems in tune with his own limitations. Unfortunately, so does the rest of the band. What they really need -- have always needed -- is someone to help them stretch things out a bit, maybe light a fire under their ass to explore new directions. From the beginning theirs was a formulaic sound, but it had a certain energy and underdog charm to it. Now, over ten years later, the beer goggles have clouded their artistic vision, and the band find themselves in a rut while the rest of their genre is reaching a new apex.


(article published 26/9/2007)

3/14/1999 A Bromley Orange Goblin: Passing the Bong
3/14/1999 A Bromley 8 Orange Goblin - Time Travelling Blues
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