As the follow-up to 2007′s Healing Through Fire this has rather a lot riding on it, as it’s fair to say that album wasn’t exactly showered with amazing reviews. For me, being brutally honest, Orange Goblin have struggled for recorded form since 2000′s The Big Black – each album since then has had standout tracks which have become live staples (and if you’ve never seen them live, you owe it to yourself to make sure you do) but none of them have impressed consistently over their entire length. Is A Eulogy For The Damned the one that finally captures their live excellence?
Thankfully, it’s exactly that – seamlessly welding everything that makes Orange Goblin such an essential force onstage to a collection of storming songs, this is the first time the band have made such a complete and satisfying album in far too many years. There’s a real sense of self-belief lacing the grooves here, right from the opening riff-salvo of ‘Red Tide Rising’ onwards, and it infects the entire record with the kind of cheesy grin-making stomp that forces you to hit ‘play’ again when it’s done. It’s all so completely unselfconscious too – not that these boys have ever really been worried about what’s ‘cool’, but the mixture of their various classic rock, doom and even punk influences is handled so deftly and naturally here that it almost feels like the band have finally grown into themselves fully.
They’ve always been about the team effort over individual flash and everyone seems to have stepped right up and taken a massive swing for the boundary. Joe Hoare’s guitar-work is as varied as it comes, from bluesy fingerpicking, to octave flurries reinforcing Ben Ward’s vocal lines, to balls-out heavy riffs and some tastefully-sprinkled solos topping his, as ever, cracking contribution. The rhythm section are probably the stars of the show for me though – Martyn Millard’s bass and Chris Turner’s drums have been locked together since the very beginning of the band, and they have a supernatural connection throughout this release – driving hard in lockstep with the guitars when necessary, but never shy of laying back and stretching around each other to create extra space for Joe or Ben.
As to the man-mountain Ben Ward (seriously, he’s a bloody colossus) – one of the best frontmen out there but never the world’s most technically amazing singer, A Eulogy For The Damned sees him put in a thoroughly excellent performance. On the title-track particularly, where actually the whole band play their collective arse off, Ben displays a breadth of tone and power he’s really only shown us flashes of before now – the low growling verses are an especial highlight of a song that takes the band’s entire range of influences and mashes the whole lot together into one of the best things they’ve ever written.
If you’ve got the impression that I really like this record, well, you’d be quite right – the five years between this and their last release has been spent most effectively. Rediscovering their stoner-rock roots without abandoning the harder edge of their last few records, Orange Goblin have turned in the record that it’s always been in them to make but has just eluded them – A Eulogy For The Damned marks the best collection of songs they’ve yet written, and should make 2012 the year they finally shift up a level.