As negative stereotypes go, a wet Wednesday in Wolverhampton is a peach. But it’s a dank image that’s about to be shattered for the many who have made their way into the increasingly fashionable Slade Rooms for tonight’s show.
Yes indeed, Orange Goblin are in town, a fact that has become a euphemism for a night of no frills, all out, rock ‘n’ roll good times. As the dark ‘Magicland’ intro plays out, Orange Goblin stride onto stage, assured and confident, proud of their new professional status, happy to finally be getting their just deserts.
Whilst Messer’s Hoare, Millard and Turner strike up opener ‘Scorpionica’, lead man Ben Ward demands the crowd go crazy. In fairness it’s not the explosive start they were looking for, due in part to the watchers slow reaction time and an uncertain beginning to the follow up newbie, ‘The Filthy and the Few’. However, the recovery is instantaneous and Orange Goblin smash their way through, dragging everybody along with them.
Ben Ward is a big man with the wingspan of a jumbo jet. Standing like the highest mountain in the range and towering over his more diminutive band mates, he growls out the lyrics to ‘Made of Rats’ and ‘Acid Trial’. He plays the fool, the madman, the tortured soul, the warrior and the druid, all with the joy of someone who just quite simply “gets it”. Helpfully dousing the crowd liberally with water, he recognises the boiling point that classics ‘Saruman’s Wish’ and ‘The Fog’ have brought them to.
It’s not all about Ben though, no way. Orange Goblin are a sum of their parts, equally reliant on the battle-doom guitar riffs that Joe Hoare thumps out, with what can only be regarded as relaxed aggression. Bassist Martyn Millard, a man clearly in touch with his Viking roots, lays down those boogie driven rock bass lines like railway tracks – solid, true and metal. Drummer Chris Turner, a native of these parts Ben reveals, flows around his kit effortlessly, generating power beats without stress or strain. Chris Turner is stoner rock for sure.
‘Turbo Effalunt’ with a guest vocal by Earls Of Mars (and alleged OG inventor) Harry Armstrong, and ‘Some You Win, Some You Lose’ provide ammo for the slam dancers. Whilst embracing and high-fiving all he can reach, Ward vows to make this date an annual event. He professes the band’s gratitude to the people who have got them this far at every opportunity, and it’s clear the sentiment is genuine.
As Martyn and Chris rumble out the intro to classic encore number ‘Blue Snow’, Ben surveys the audience with intensity, keen to commit every moment to vivid memory. He double fist salutes them one last time before closing out the whole deal with ‘Red Tide Rising’.
It’s been an excellent year for Orange Goblin, restoring one’s faith that good guys don’t always finish last. With dates in Europe, North America and Australia on the horizon – there is a tide rising for sure, and Orange Goblin will be riding on the crest of it.
Review: Noel Fischer
Photography: Steve Johnston