Review: Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back
Sometimes I get an itch, an itch for a certain type of album. This year I’ve had an itch for stoner metal and I’ve found the recent offerings from The Sword and Corrosion of Conformity to be a bit wanting. They weren’t bad albums, but they just seemed to be lacking something. Enter the new Orange Goblin album, The Wolf Bites Back which is out now through Candlelight/Spinefarm Records.
In terms of sound Orange Goblin has merged stoner metal with blues rock, making them sound more akin to bands like Down and Corrosion of Conformity than Black Sabbath or Electric Wizard. This gives Orange Goblin a distinct sound that helps them stand out amongst some of their contemporaries.
Before the wolf has a chance to bite back, the listener is introduced to “The Sons of Salem.” “The Sons of Salem” is a catchy song that struts along as vocalist Ben Ward belts out a grizzled vocal performance. On the heels of “The Sons of Salem” is the title track “The Wolf Bites Back”. This song begins with a slow build before settling into a driving rhythm that is far more rock n’ roll than heavy metal.
Once the wolf is done biting back we’re introduced to the “Renegade”, a jaunty track and, musically, one of the album’s best toe tappers. However, this song relies way too heavily on using “rock ‘n’ roll” clichés in its lyrics. The only band that could use these lyrics and not sound so try hard is Motörhead.
Dropping the faster, rock ‘n’ roll outlaw vibe of the album is “Swords of Fire”, which by the title alone would make you think it’s a power metal song. However, the track is anything but. This song is more of a straightforward stoner metal song which starts by slowly, meandering along for more than two minutes before transitioning into a ‘harder’ sound, similar to early Red Fang.
“Ghosts of the Primitives” adds another variation of the Orange Goblin sound to the album. On this track, Orange Goblin taps into a southern rock vibe reminiscent of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses”. This isn’t too surprising given the band had covered the ZZ Top song “Just Got Paid” previously. This homage to the Texan band is one of my favorite songs on the album with its mellower southern rock vibe.
Adding still more variety into this cornucopia of sound, is the song “In Bocca Al Lupo”. While this song is only an instrumental, the song does provide the album with a slight psychedelic rock feel. While I’m not a fan of the random placement of instrumental tracks on an album, the inclusion of “In Bocca Al Lupo” doesn’t act as filler but rather, shows the diversity of Orange Goblin’s sound.
Adding even more diversity to this album is the fast, aggressive, and punk like “Suicide Division”. Coming in at barely over two minutes long, this jam grabs onto you and doesn’t let go until it’s over. Serving as a stark counterpoint to this aggression is the slow country blues jam of “The Stranger.” What gives this track its character is the vocal performance of Ben Ward which has southern, melancholic tone to it, similar to the vocals of Phil Anselmo or Pepper Kennan.
This vocal style continues on “Burn the Ships” which instrumentally sees the return of a more straightforward stoner metal sound with slower, heavily distorted guitar riffs. Finishing out the album in this same vein is the song “Zeitgeist”. This song bounces along straightforward stoner metal path of the previous track while also adding some nice Baroness-esque harmonies as well. It’s a mellow conclusion to a stellar record.
When I first sat down to listen to The Wolf Bites Back I expected to hear a solid stoner metal album that would fill the void that other recent albums hadn’t. What I didn’t expect was to hear an album as varied and as enjoyable as this. The Wolf Bites Back might be one of my favorite albums of 2018.