Album Review: Orange Goblin – “The Wolf Bites Back”

In the year of the wölf

British rockers Orange Goblin have been blasting out electric time-traveling blues for over 20 years. Beginning as a galaxy-gazing stoner metal outfit, their sound hardened while crossing dimensions into the 21st century. As Y2K paranoia dispersed, 2000’s Big Black revealed a band riding the line between idolizing Hawkwind-era and umlaut Lemmy. Now on their ninth LP, Orange Goblin slam another round of shots for lost heavy metal pioneers while revving their chopper engines on The Wolf Bites Back.

After Chris Turner’s opening “Sons of Salem” drumroll, we’re reintroduced to mountainous Ben Ward’s tales of supernatural revenge and general mayhem. From the nomadic outlaw of “Renegade” to the philosophical antihero in “The Stranger,” Orange Goblin lend voices to beings—both of this world and others—whose morals dip in and out of the shadows. While Orange Goblin is a good-time rock ’n’ roll band at heart, they counterbalance the bar-brawl rowdiness with sobering sentiments on cyclic oppression and violence. Like Ward bellows in “The Stranger,” “I know stars can’t shine without the dark.”

While half of “Swords of Fire” is a simmering crescendo, it eventually erupts into one of the bleakest doom passages of the band’s tenure. Similarly, it takes a minute for “Ghosts of the Primitives” to shake its jangly intro before raging. Throughout, mild psychedelic passages drift into deep space, floating by Orange Goblin’s old friend Planet Ten. Although the band has some surprises in store (the delicate melodies of closer “Zeitgeist”), some things are best left unchanged (going full-Motörhead on “Suicide Division”). The Wolf Bites Back reminds headbangers there are few things as constant in this universe as Joe Hoare’s raucous riffs and the long shadow cast by Ward onstage.