Live review: Goblin, The Orange Peel (10/3/2013)

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Goblin
The Orange Peel, Asheville
October 3, 2013

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"They even look like goblins!" said my wife as veteran Italian horror-prog maestros Goblin trouped onstage at Asheville's Orange Peel last Thursday night amid a fog machine swirl, a lumbering synth rumble and a lithe female dancer capering in costume as a graveyard witch.

Indeed, guitarist Massimo Morante and keyboardists Maurizio Guarini and Claudio Simonetti, who've gigged together off-and-on since 1975, resembled otherworldly ancient warriors from The Lord of the Rings ranks. Guarini's bald pate glinted in the battery of colored stage lights, Simonetti stood behind a bank of synths and keys like a bespectacled alchemist, and Morante was the guitar slinging goblin king, sporting the long-haired frizz favored by King Crimson's Robert Fripp in the mid '70s.

The mayhem began with the classicist grandeur and heavy-metal ferocity of the cut "Goblin," from the 1976 non-soundtrack LP Roller, bludgeoning the capacity crowd of quite a few young women, and far more young men, who were not yet born when legendary Italian horror director Dario Argento convened Goblin to score his sanguinary mystery Profondo Rosso (AKA Deep Red) in 1975.

After a friendly "Ciao Asheville" from Morante, footage from that gruesome classic followed. Clips from Deep Red, with actor David Hemmings uncovering a trail of candy colored mayhem, unspooled on screens behind the band as they lit into the funky but pummeling "Mad Puppet."

This reconstituted version of Goblin, making its first ever U.S tour, was hard-rocking, and above all else, loud. Ear splitting volume came courtesy of Morante's shrieking psych-blues guitar, plus Guarini's fat keyboard riffs, countered by Simonetti's air-raid siren squall. Yet the key ingredients of Goblin's mix of grand orchestral sweep and demented machine gun stutter were bassist Bruno Previtali and drummer Titta Tani.

Dubbed the 'Young Goblins" by the avuncular Simonetti, Previtali and Tani have played in the keyboard wizard's side project, Daemonia since the early 2000s. The rhythm section's sub woofer bass and double-
kick drums dopplered down on the enthusiastic crowd like a tractor trailer jack-knifing off the highway. At times, the pulsing sound pushed so much air I felt my clothes rustle.

Throughout the first half of the set, Simonetti played music director to Morante's front man. While the guitarist led the crowd in fist pumping and hand clapping, the keyboardist counted out measures on his fingers, cuing Guarini and Tani. Yet after a string of compositions dominated by Roller, Guarini, previously a bastion of stoic concentration, greeted the audience with a warm hello.

Noting that this was the second gig of their initial U.S. tour, Guarini told us that the maestros were about to leap into the bloody fray of their soundtrackclassics. The crowd went ape-shit.

While the big screen displayed clips of people getting disemboweled and devoured, the relentless lurch of the title cut from the 1978 hit Zombi (AKA Dawn of the Dead) ratcheted up from foot dragging dirge to graveyard boogie with cascading keys. Then it was Simonetti's turn at the mic. When he pointed to Morante tuning a bouzouki, Italo-horror mavens knew that the instrument pointed to Greek sorceress Elena Markos, who presided over the witch haunted dance academy in 1977's Suspiria, Goblin's finest score for Argento's darkest movie.

Balancing a delicate, almost medieval bouzouki figure against chiming celesta, Suspiria's title cut built on circular synths to a psychotic rave-up, a far creepier cousin to Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells", accompanied onstage by a twirling black clad ballerina.

More grisly favorites followed. Simonetti's vocoder vocals initiated the slaughterhouse Euro-disco stomp of "Tenebre." The electric buzz of insects heralded the operatic grandeur and dance floor beats of "Phenomena," while onscreen, a blizzard of clips included a very young Jennifer Connelly and her insect friends, a midnight dip into a lake of maggots and lest we Italo-horror fans forget, a murderous razor wielding monkey.

Yet, the evening's high point was the title cut of Deep Red, perhaps Goblin's greatest single track. In this impressive display of dynamics, a heartbeat and an eerie child's lullaby dovetailed into a delicate guitar figure which ascended like a tarantula up an exposed spine. And then all hell broke loose in a burst of surging goth organ. A vigorous encore of Zombi's title theme was almost an anti-climax.

Like the Argento movies they frequently scored, Goblin's Thursday night set was grandiose, over the top, a tiny bit hokey and utterly superb. Earlier in the evening Simonetti joked about singing a version of the Frank Sinatra chestnut "My Way," noting that Goblin always did it their way. Indeed they did, Maestro. To which we add a heartfelt and blood spattered "Graci."

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