Review: Orange GoblinScience, Not Fiction


Orange Goblin are a band that is consistently overlooked within metal discussions. Despite a handful of generally esteemed albums and a consistently solid catalog, they don’t really receive their dues alongside a lot of their contemporaries despite coming to prominence in a time where a lot of stoner metal artists really started to be more lauded. They’re a band whose sound has at times blended trace elements of space rock revivalism, stoner metal and blues rock without ever making their home in any one of them. Moving into the 21st century, they might simply have been too rugged and frill-less to be acclaimed alongside their contemporaries.

And it’s a shame, because their run from 1997 to 2002? Really fucking good.

Science, Not Fiction comes after 2018’s The Wolf Bites Back, another decent record in Orange Goblin’s back catalog but not one that made an especially big splash. 6 years is the longest gap between records in their discography, with the pandemic no doubt exacerbating things. For a band almost 30 years deep, it was natural to wonder what Orange Goblin would sound like after more than half a decade in the oven.

Opening track “The Fire At The Centre Of The Earth Is Mine” initially teases the sort of pseudo-cosmic flair of their early material with some sustained ambience that erupts into more familiar dirty riffing. The track immediately highlights the albums strong points: solid riff-work that is at once sinister and rollicking, alongside slick interplay between the chunky, pronounced basslines and bright percussion.

“(Not) Rocket Science” is less immediate, a throwback that manages to sound reverent without feeling tired. The legato crunch of the opening tracks’ riffs is here replaced by something more steady and plodding but it’s still a solid rock and roll track. The highlight is definitely the use of some percussive keys and a pretty elegant trade-off between guitar and bass solos. “Ascend The Negative” feels much the same but is even tighter in execution. It’s a track that plays around with tempo while incorporating disparate elements of southern rock and traditional heavy metal, all while managing to put forth an atmosphere that’s simultaneously dour but still imbued with the pissed-off vigor that embodied Orange Goblin’s best records—specifically reminding me of moments off Coup De Grace.

“False Hope Diet” starts with some distant guitar arpeggios that transition into some nice dueling lead/rhythm work. But despite being one of the more ambitious tracks on Science, Not Fiction, it still feels like it’s working in an old framework—not exactly a retread, but just really lacks freshness. Combined with the lyrics, it feels like something that would have been tired 20 years ago, and feels closer to self-parody now. The less obfuscated lyrics and vocal delivery, talking about man-made pandemics, chemtrails and being manipulated by television, combines with the instrumentation to create a track that feels so dated and rusted despite trying to feel topical and contemporary. Obviously listening to Orange Goblin for lyrical insight is thick-headed but hearing “anti-social media”, “Mystery vaccines, man-made epidemics from the corporate machines ” and “The Devil’s in the detail, and your television set” are all massive eye-rollers, which you could overlook if the instrumentation was more interesting. I don’t know, the whole track just reminded me of, like, a musical accompaniment to a Facebook AI image of a scene from 1984 or something.

“Cemetery Rats” gets the album back into first gear thankfully, a song that finally feels like Orange Goblin firing on all cylinders, a song whose more restrained, brooding introduction suddenly explodes into life, injecting the album with vigor—the sort of track you’d expect when thinking of Orange Goblin. It’s a track that’s immediate and hooky while simultaneously being the crustiest the album has sounded up until this point. “The Fury Of A Patient Man” conversely feels once again like diminished returns, a track that has a lot of aggression and posturing but lacks much weight; not completely weak, exactly, but in addition to being the shortest track on the album it just feels more disposable. Like “False Hope Diet” before it, it just sounds so tired and inessential when paired alongside the album’s stronger moments.

“Gemini (Twins Of Evil)” stands out in the tracklist, having an introduction with more menace to its sound than most of the record. I think it’s a big example of the instrumentation being at odds with the track’s vocal delivery, which retains the familiar gruff punchiness of the rest of the record to the track’s detriment. By this point in the album the vocals have stayed so rigid in their style that songs begin to lose a lot of identity. “The Justice Knife” similarly suffers from the interchangeable vocal styling, another track that trundles along without a clear, distinct sound of its own save for a nice break and guitar solo.

The album leaves on a high note thankfully, with the ambitious “End Of Transmission.” Starting with a little ostinato guitar introduction, the song blooms into a densely structured piece that ends up as a massive fucking highlight in Orange Goblin’s catalog, honestly just one of their best songs, full-stop. As rough as the middle-to-late portion of the album is, “End Of Transmission” finishes the record with aplomb and proves more than any other moment on the record that there’s life left in Orange Goblin yet.

Science, Not Fiction is an album of wildly disparate quality, containing career highlights and lows. For every instance of freshness there’s a pronounced stagnation; retreaded ideas betraying killer instrumentation. The band describe it as an album informed equally by dystopian fiction, spirituality, religion and science but the connection feels tangential at best and underwritten at worst. Almost half a decade off from studio full-lengths and Orange Goblin have some ring-rust, but there’s a few diamonds to be found.

2.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Science, Not Fiction is out July 19th on Peaceville Records.

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