GOBLIN - Four of a Kind

Part-time Random Reviews contributor Bob Ignizio isn't just a comic book slog.  Actually, I wouldn't call him a slog at all.  For a refresher course, visit his movie site HERE.  He was nice enough to review the latest Goblin jams, so check this shiznit out.

What’s the deal with Goblin? Fans of the Italian progressive rock band and horror soundtrack specialists might very well be wondering just that with the recent release of two new albums by two different versions of the band: Goblin and Goblin Rebirth. Former Goblin keyboard player Claudio Simonetti also has a version of the band, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, which released an album last year consisting of new recordings of classic Goblin soundtrack cues, but that’s kind of lazy, if you ask me, so we won’t be dealing with it here.

Goblin Rebirth was recorded in 2012, and for whatever reason, sat in the can until Relapse Records picked it up for release in June of this year. This version of the band features the classic Goblin rhythm section of Agostino Marangolo on drums and Fabio Pignatelli on bass, with Giacomo Anselmi on guitars and Aidan Zammit and Danilo Cherni on keyboards. While the new players bring their own styles to the mix, Goblin Rebirth shows just how important Pignatelli and Marangolo are to the Goblin sound, their beats and basslines laying down a foundation that is unmistakable.

Lead-off track “Requiem for X” very much has Goblin’s classic horror soundtrack vibe, as does “Back in ‘74.” From there, however, things take a turn into more of a modern prog/fusion direction. Anselmi tends to play a bit more frenetically than original Goblin axeman Massimo Morante, and some of the keyboards have a more modern sound as well. Still, Goblin Rebirth never strays too far from the sound Goblin is known for. The cheesy, processed vocals (reminiscent of the title track of Goblin’s soundtrack for Tenebre) on “Evil in the Machine” didn’t work for me, but otherwise, this is a fine disc of instrumental prog that shows a Goblin proud of its past and looking to the future.

Goblin’s Four of a Kind represents the current, more or less unified version of Goblin, but despite being a more recent recording, it was actually released about a month before Goblin Rebirth. Since the Rebirth album, both Marangolo and Pignatelli have rejoined original Goblin guitarist Massimo Morante and keyboard player Maurizio Guarini, who played on most of the band’s best known seventies and eighties works. Goblin Rebirth keyboard player Aidan Zammit was in the band when I caught them live last year, but has evidently departed since then and not been replaced. For what it’s worth, Simonetti had been playing with Morante and Guarini under the Goblin name in 2013, but left before the rhythm section returned, quashing any hopes fans might have had for a full reunion.

If you were looking for a new Goblin album that completely nails the band’s classic sound with few (if any) concessions to what’s happened in the world musically since, Four of a Kind is it. The horror vibe is much stronger throughout than on Rebirth, and just as that album helped shine a spotlight on Marangolo and Pignatelli, this album reveals how important Morante’s guitar playing was to the classic Goblin sound. He has a much bluesier style than Goblin Rebirth’s Anselmi and doesn’t tend to shred as much. In fact, he’s often quite content to just lay down chords. Make no mistake, though; the guy is no slouch on the six string, and when he delivers a lead, he does so with feeling.

So what about Goblin’s keyboard wizard Claudio Simonetti? How badly is he missed? I will say his absence is felt, but not nearly as much as one might expect. Both Guarini and Zammit do a fair job of taking his place. In a perfect world, Four of a Kind might have been Five of a Kind. Such is life. While it may not be perfect, Four of a Kind is still worth four of an Abbath (for those curious, I'd give Rebirth three and a half screaming Norwegian men).

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