The immediate implication in the title of Orange Goblin‘s new live record, A Eulogy for the Fans, is that the fans in question — those who attended the Bloodstock festival on Aug. 11, 2012 — are dead. More specifically, that Orange Goblin killed them. An actual death toll for Bloodstock 2012 has yet to be released to my knowledge, but at least figuratively, over the course of their hour-long set, the British riff brutalizers did in fact hand the festival its own ass — thus “killing,” thus requiring a eulogy, thus making the title even more of a clever play on words than its relation to the band’s 2012 opus, A Eulogy for the Damned (review here). Brash and drunk as they might be, never let it be said Orange Goblin aren’t also up for a good pun every now and again.
This one comes especially well timed. A Eulogy for the Damned, which was the foursome’s first studio outing in half a decade following 2007’s righteous Healing through Fire (it provided little healing, but much fire), marked a resurgence point for Orange Goblin, who’d been hinting at their own demise more or less from the moment they got through the touring cycle. Aligned to new label Candlelight Records, the band — vocalist Ben Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner — emerged as forerunners of a potent UK heavy rock underground, their influence spread wide in their absence, and hit the road hard to support the album, which was their most sleekly-produced to date and full of landmark choruses like that of “The Fog” and the anthemic “The Filthy and the Few.” At Bloodstock, at Desertfest, and elsewhere, Goblin met an enthusiastic response and so, arriving just as they get ready to hit the road in the US alongside Clutch, A Eulogy for the Fans (also released by Candlelight) couldn’t be better timed.
Along with an audio CD of the Bloodstock set — which, as advertised, is a killer — A Eulogy for the Fans also includes a DVD with complete video coverage of that, their set at the 2012 Hellfest in France, the promo clip for A Eulogy for the Damned leadoff track “Red Tide Rising” — which also starts the set here — and a behind-the-scenes look at making that video, playing Hellfest. There’s also reportedly a photo gallery and other content included, but because we live in an age of digital wonder, I have no idea about any of that stuff and can only speak to the audio of the thing. If it’s any consolation (it isn’t), here are a few things I’m sure one would notice on the DVD: Ben Ward is tall and spends a lot of time with his arms raised, the Bloodstock crowd loved Orange Goblin, and the band very much enjoy the taste of liquor. I’d love to do a tally of how much is actually consumed throughout the DVD, but again, digital wonder. Did you know my cellphone keeps tabs on where I buy pants? Digital wonder.
I’m not sure there was any question of Orange Goblin‘s destructive force in the live arena, but as they’ve gone more than 15 years since their first LP, Frequencies from Planet Ten, was released without showing official documentation of it, A Eulogy for the Fans is probably overdue. Nonetheless, there’s more to the band’s presentation at this stage of their career than simply bashing either the crowd at Bloodstock or you, the vigilant consumer listening or watching at home, over the head with their riffs, grooves and gruff vocals. Opening with a blistering trio of rockers in “Red Tide Rising,” “The Filthy and the Few” and “The Ballad of Solomon Eagle” (the latter culled from Healing through Fire), Orange Goblin use that initial burst of energy as setup for a comedown groove that commences with “Time Travelling Blues” — the title-track of their 1998 second album — before running an up/down course with “Some You Win, Some You Lose” from 2004’s Thieving from the House of God and “The Fog” from A Eulogy for the Damned, which Ward rightly announces as a doom number, though to a certain extent the same could be said about everything Orange Goblin play and probably when they walk down the street to get a sandwich. Pretty much everything they do is doom.
“Some You Win, Some You Lose” is a longtime personal favorite, but I won’t discount the sing-along appeal of the ending to “Time Travelling Blues” or “Round up the Horses,” which follows “The Fog.” By that point, Orange Goblin are in the thick of their set, Hoare giving an especially raging performance while Turner‘s drums have that sound only heard at pro-recorded fests, somewhere between tinny in the snare and the fullness one might hear at a studio — better than most live recordings but still not quite all the way clean — and Millard runs circles around the central riffs in Sabbathian tradition. Not as immediate as some from A Eulogy for the Damned, “Acid Trial” proves a highlight of A Eulogy for the Fans, well-suited to the inherent grit of a live album and played perhaps slightly faster than it might be on the studio version. Hoare‘s solo and lead lines shine through again, and Ward rides the groove and eggs the audience on to do the same — paying off some of the between-song “Go fuckin’ crazy”-type banter — leading to “They Come Back,” which is shouted out to fans of zombie movies.
Actually, the line there is, “Let’s hear it for zombie movies!” and indeed, if it’s zombie movies that brought to life the chorus of “They Come Back,” then let’s hear it for them. That song, also a highlight of Healing through Fire, signals the final stretch of A Eulogy for the Fans, Ward going to his most guttural delivery for the line “The dead cry out in hellbent misery” before giving Lee Dorrian‘s horror-scream a run for its money in the bridge on the way to the final verse and chorus. From there, Orange Goblin depart from recent triumphs to answer back the fresh-faced material they began with by dredging up the time-hewn sludge revelry of “Blue Snow” — “‘Cos when the dream is over/Blue snow will fall on you” — from Time Travelling Blues and “Quincy the Pigboy” and “Scorpionica,” the opening duo (presented in reverse order) from 2000’s landmark third full-length, The Big Black. In perspective almost as much as their sound, these songs summarize the crux of what Orange Goblin does, and though they’ve just spent the better part of an hour delivering at top speed, Ward, Millard, Hoare and Turner can’t help but give their closing argument its due adrenaline.
It’s probably a good thing Orange Goblin were headlining the Sophie Lancaster Stage that night (Machine Head and Testament were reportedly on the Ronnie James Dio Stage; woe to Machine Head if they played following), as I can’t imagine anyone getting on stage after them and saying, “Okay, now here’s this.” The crowd chanting their name as they take the obligatory onstage photo following “Scorpionica,” the band prove victorious yet again, perhaps with a few nicks in their battle-axes, but only from so many beheadings. As anyone who’s seen them will probably tell you louder than you want to hear it, Orange Goblin are an unfuckwithable live act, and even though they don’t really need to prove that at this point in their career, it’s handy to have A Eulogy for the Fans as a means of serving notice to the not-yet converted or those who’d simply like to revel in their riffery one more time. Like me, as I press play for another run through this Bloodstock set. Fucking right on.