Known as kings of good-time thrashy, doomy rock, London’s Orange Goblin are lauded for a lot of things: their musical prowess, their live-fast-die-young lyrics, and their title as one of the heaviest and most metal rock bands out there. However, they’ve never been known for introspective lyrics or a more serious tone—until now, that is.
“We feel that it’s a natural progression of what we have previously done with Orange Goblin, but there is a bit of a darker, more sinister side to this record, hence the album title and the artwork,” vocalist Ben Ward says regarding The Wolf Bites Back, out June 15 on Candlelight Records. “Nothing was preplanned; we just went into the writing process with very open minds and weren’t afraid to throw a bit of everything into the mix. The results speak for themselves, and although it’s a bit of a cliché to say this, I think it’s the best album we have ever recorded.”
After 23 years together and with eight previous albums under their belts, the band were ready to experiment a little. Though the core essentials of Orange Goblin are still there—the rollicking riffs, the motorcycle vibes, the straightforward bluesy metal sound—fans will also recognize more darkness and aggression. The new direction was encouraged, in part, by the studio the band used to make the record.
“The studio that we recorded at belongs to a good friend of ours called Jaime Gomez Arellano, and we had been discussing working together for a few years,” Ward explains. “When the opportunity arose, we jumped at it, as Gomez has an amazing track record over recent years, producing the likes of Ghost, Grave Pleasures, Cathedral, Paradise Lost, and more. The fact that the studio is so remote meant that there were zero distractions and we could all focus 100 percent on making the best record possible.”
In true mysterious doom fashion, Orange Goblin retreated into the British countryside—the perfect setting for an album about wolves and getting in touch with the primitive.
“I don’t know how much the environment influenced us during recording, but I think that the final product sounds typically British,” Ward says. “Gomez was incredible to work with too—not just his masterful knowledge in the control booth, but also his advice and suggestions on creating different sounds and encouragement to try new things. He has a massive collection of vintage amps and instruments, which we embraced to help create the varying sounds from song to song. It was a lot of fun and very eye-opening after having made as many albums as we have. I think it’s important to try things like that and breathe new life into what we are doing.”
Orange Goblin not only broke new musical ground with The Wolf Bites Back, they also strayed into slightly more political territory. In a world of Trump presidencies and Brexits, it’s not surprising that even the joy-riding rock anthems the band usually pen waxed a little more philosophical. “I always like to explore different things from album to album, and most of what I write is inspired by whatever books I’m reading or films I’m watching at the time,” Ward says. “For this record, I was reading a lot more sci-fi, stuff like Philip K. Dick, Robert Bloch, H.G. Wells, etc. There are also some indirect political comments too, in the same way that Geezer Butler used to write for Black Sabbath. There’s a tribute to Lemmy and a lot of doom and gloom in response to the planet being totally fucked. I think there is something for everyone, and I like the lyrics to remain a little open to interpretation.”
All things considered, Orange Goblin are taking some risks, ramping things up with their lyrical content, music, production, and concept—and Ward couldn’t be happier with the results.
“It’s very hard to pinpoint [my favorite] thing about it, so I’m gonna have to say all of it,” Ward shares. “The production sounds great, the songwriting is the strongest of our career, and each individual performance on the record is better than anything we have done before. [Guitarist] Joe [Hoare], [bassist] Martyn [Millard], and [drummer] Chris [Turner] have all excelled on this album, and I personally feel that my vocal performance and range are better than any albums before. The lyrics were all written very last-minute, but I’m very happy with how they came out too, and we cover a very broad range of subjects on The Wolf Bites Back.”