Time flies in heavy metal. Significant anniversaries of major metallic milestones are whizzing by at such furious speed these days that even those who still have a credible grip on their youth must be suffering regular bouts of oh-fuck-I’m-nearly-dead horror. And if not, I wish they bloody were, because contemplating the fact that next year will usher in Orange Goblin’s 20th anniversary as a band is enough to make me reach for the sedative-laced cocoa and studded lap-blanket.
Dom Lawson: Why I Love Orange Goblin
Hammer's Dom Lawson dishes out the love for one of British metal's unsung heroes
And yet, 20 years of Orange Goblin is manifestly something to celebrate. The first time I heard the band they were still called Our Haunted Kingdom and were occupying one side of a split seven-inch single alongside the equally mighty Electric Wizard. Although it was somewhat hard to discern exactly what was going on through the perpetual marijuana fog I lived in back then, it was more than plain that this new band were worthy of my attention.
By the time the Londoners changed their name, the hazy but unmistakable mid-90s stoner rock explosion was underway, as legions of hairy and hirsute slaves to the riff plundered the Black Sabbath catalogue, cranked up their rudimentary fuzz pedals and spewed forth a sense of B-movie kitsch and balls-out metal fun that somehow complemented the rather more austere and po-faced doom metal scene that had been rumbling ominously away in the shadows of the underground for several years. Orange Goblin were immediately embraced by the stoner faithful, of course, but it swiftly became apparent that here was a band built for the long haul and one wholly encumbered by notions of bandwagon-hopping or identikit superficiality. Instead, the band’s first two decades have told a story of steady evolution, diehard dedication and a seemingly unerring commitment to the ways of heavy fucking metal. Never mind all those supposedly “modern” bands that emerge from time to time, appeasing the fickle and transient “alternative” masses… Orange Goblin have always worn their metal colours with pride, proclaiming their worship of The Riff and exhibiting an unwavering knack for incorporating all manner of disparate influences into their almost casually classic metal sound, while never deviating from a righteous path of joyous heaviness and beer-sodden euphoria.
Tellingly, the Goblin boys continue to make a mockery of the notion that bands deteriorate or lose their edge with age. If you haven’t treated your ears to their seventh album, 2012’s A Eulogy For The Damned, you really, really should. A towering tour-de-force of thunderous power and razor-sharp songwriting suss, it was widely and deservedly hailed as the finest record of the band’s career and has propelled them to new heights of popularity and acclaim on a global scale. Orange Goblin may still be some way away from becoming household names, but a combination of a thrillingly timeless sound and levels of passion and persistence that put most younger bands to shame seem to be finally nudging the band towards the kind of success that they have long deserved. Above all, Orange Goblin fly the flag for heavy metal: loud, proud and utterly unapologetic. Their unpretentious and wonderfully non-cynical collective demeanour may have precluded them from being celebrated in the same way as some of their more self-consciously cool contemporaries, but dedicated metalheads know the real thing when they hear it and Orange Goblin are exactly that. Maybe when that 20th anniversary comes around it will finally be time for them to be recognised as what they assuredly are: one of the greatest British heavy metal bands of all time and, should you be wise enough to catch them, the loudest, riffiest and most obnoxiously entertaining night out you’ll ever have. Raise a toast to Orange fucking Goblin, baby