Album Review: ORANGE GOBLIN The Wolf Bites Back
Alright, kids. Are you ready for a fresh-out-of-the-oven hot take? Here it comes… *drum roll* I personally think a good chunk of stoner metal bands are monotonous, edgy blues-rock acts [editor's note: I fully support this statement. – CD]
Don't get too heated, I fully agree that there are legendary icons born out of this style. Still, like other subgenres, there's a decent slice of the stoner metal scene that is too much of the same old same old. Innovative acts like Kyuss, Masters of Reality, Dozer, or even the somewhat recent Red Fang keep my full attention. Yet, other bands that fall under a similar approach have often been hit-or-miss in my opinion.
I understand that making a bold statement like this automatically attracts apathy. Nonetheless, I believe Orange Goblin is one of these groups that have put out some solid records and also some so-so albums. Considering the band has been together for over two decades with eight full-length albums under their belt, I approached this new record with optimism regarding its ability to reignite my perspective on the band and subgenre.
To my delight, the group kicks off The Wolf Bites Back with a whopping dose of ferocity. Songs like "Sons of Salem" and the title track storm right out of the gate. They were definitely enjoyable and have a fresher and more modern stoner rock take akin to Red Fang. The former piece is full of steamy momentum leading to the latter, which introduces acoustic guitar into the mix. While aesthetically pleasing for different reasons, they both equally possess memorable hooks and heaviness. Other notable compositions that stuck out would be the bluesy/groovy "Ghosts of the Primitives" and dynamic, hooky "Burn the Ships." Furthermore, I pictured a perfect melding between High on Fire, Mastodon, and Melvins for "Swords of Fire."
If there's one thing I truly admire about Orange Goblin is their respect for their roots. Ever since their debut release, Frequencies from Planet Ten, the Black Sabbath influence has been undeniably present. Yet, throughout the years there has been gradual stylistic experimentations within psychedelic doom, crusty punk, southern rock, and classic heavy metal. With such stylistic variety, Orange Goblin has matured and developed a greater sense for songwriting. Certain songs on this LP are concrete proof of this progress like the instrumental "In Bocca Al Lupo" or "The Stranger" ballad. The songwriting on these particular pieces is far more impressive than I expected for this group and very indicative of their evolution since their 90's and early 2000's output.
Admittedly, upon initial listen of this record, I feared it was just another stoner-rock-by-the-numbers album. After working through this album many times though, I have gained a larger respect for Orange Goblin's songwriting. Although their overall discography never quite grabbed me as firmly as other stoner rock or metal acts, The Wolf Bites Back allowed me to reconsider. There are a few numbers on this LP that were passable, however pieces like "Swords of Fire," the title track, and "The Stranger" are songs I'll likely return to in the future.
In the end, it's a pretty decent album. I'm still not the hugest fan of the group, but I certainly have a positive association towards Orange Goblin after giving this record a chance. Lastly, I am very much so convinced The Wolf Bites Back grows in quality with each listen, so be patient if you're like me and am not immediately sucked in.