Is Orange Goblin’s The Wolf Bites Back all bark and no bite or is it a flesh shredding successor to Back from the Abyss? 9/10
Four years ago British doom merchants Orange Goblin released arguably one of their best albums in the form of Back from the Abyss which means that The Wolf Bites Back has a high bar set for it. When faced with a near impossible task, many bands would play it safe and release something ‘true to form’ or even go in a completely different direction but Orange Goblin have never been ones to compromise or to take an easy path. The Wolf Bites Back is unquestionably an Orange Goblin album but there are other musical influences coming to the fore here rather than just Black Sabbath, as Goblin go in a more varied direction without straying from the path.
Opener The Sons of Salem is a swift punch in the face to make sure you’re listening; there’s no long intro, no rests, just a full throttle three minute blast of huge riffing that is bound to be one of the biggest songs in their live sets for years to come. If you thought that after 23 years the band might be about to slow down then Sons will get that thought right out of your head from the very start. Title track The Wolf Bites Back has an acoustic start that lulls you very briefly into thinking that there may be a ballad on the way but a driving baseline quickly confirms there’s no such thing and as the acoustic guitar goes into a minor key then you know there’s another huge riff on the way and quickly you’re hit with a song that is top-down-70-miles-an-hour-on-the-motorway soundtrack material.
Goblin then change gears with a kind of funky groove for Renegade then slowing right down for the sludgy power of Swords of Fire. Ghosts of the Primitives has a bit of a punk edge to it, somewhat reminiscent of The Stooges perhaps while Suicide Division is an undeniable punk rock song yet still perfectly doom-y. The Stranger is a nice blues track with beautifully layered vocals which is an unlikely standout on the album, a real hidden diamond.
In case the blues there had made you forgotten who you were listening to, penultimate track Burn the Ships is vintage Goblin with a huge sexy riff before Zeitgeist rounds the album off. Zeitgeist is has some incredible guitar parts that tease you along the way like the harmonies and solo at the two minute mark but it’s at the three minute mark that the song hits Freebird territory with a massive solo that fades out leaving you panting and desperate for more.
The Wolf Bites Back is a big reminder why Orange Goblin have been around for 23 years – they are masters of their craft and just when you think you have all the answers, they’ll change the questions.
5 man-eating wolves out of 5. (Revised to 9/10)