Orange Goblin at Electric Ballroom

Support: Karma To Burn| Black Moth | Riddles
December 22, 2017 at Electric Ballroom

Following last year’s Christmas event at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, Orange Goblin are back to top the bill with another fine supporting cast of friends and label-mates in tow. Kicking off this year’s festive shindig is Riddles. This writer was duly notified that the original vocalist Jimmy Riddles has recently left the band. The unidentified new vocalist makes a very impressive first performance. She clutches a tambourine in one hand maraca in the other, later both to be replaced by a trusty notebook, and adds intrigue into the band’s sound.

Hopefully this will indeed be a permanent line-up, and a consequent name change I assume may well be on the cards. But the combination of enthusiastic delivered space-rock grooves with the said new vocalist’s strong, clean vocal chords works to great effect. The band’s new formation has a lot of potential, so hopefully more will be seen and heard of them in 2018.

A band a little bit further along rock ‘n’ roll’s highway and about to unleash their third album, but their first with the current line-up, and due to head out on their own headline tour early next year is Leeds/London-based stoner grungers Black Moth. A change from their usual opener ‘Undead King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ they instead start with a new stop you in your tracks gigantic riff by Federica. They then commence on a set of largely new tracks where the riffs are so huge they could create a tornado.

It is clear from the two old songs aired tonight, ‘Tumbleweave’ and ‘Blackbirds Fall’, that there has been a major evolution in their songwriting ranks. The new songs continue with the heavyosity but they are supplemented with standout intricate riffing. Maybe the new songs are less immediate, but the signs are mighty good because lead-off single ‘Moonbow’ is a brain-imprint stamper after several repeated listens. And while the great interplay between Jim and Federica is undermined a touch tonight by Jim’s guitar being lower down in the mix, this doesn’t distract from their display of enormous, impressive, riffy firepower, and a sturdy rhythm section holding it altogether.

While Harriet is a master of ceremonies, arms swaying and twisting to the rhythms of her vocal phrasings, her natural comfortableness with in-between banter with the crowd also helps their cause, going down a treat with the generous-sized “gorgeous bastards” in attendance. This classy performance will only enhance even further their growing praise and reputation.

West Virginia’s Karma to Burn have a stage looseness which can only come from experience as they play around in between their instrumental hook-laden rock outs. A crowd-pleasing improv jam of ZZ Tops’ ‘La Grange’ before they really get down to business and prove to be worthy groove shredders. They are at their best when the riff and the rhythm section lock horns and hurl along like a cheetah with a purpose. They turn out to be a sure-fire hit with the punters.

Coming on to the sound of AC/DC’s ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)’ Orange Goblin, like their heroes, have stuck to their guns. Receiving a returning hero’s welcome, like they did at Desertfest in 2015 at this very same venue, they go on to produce a show every bit as enjoyable as that said festival appearance. It must be something about this venue which suits the band so well. The interaction between Ben and the crowd is enjoyably uplifting and fuels both to create an electric atmosphere.

The commanding bulky figure of Ben is clearly in metal-party mood. He may have vocal limitations, not possessing the tonsil range of say, Bruce Dickinson or Mike Patton but, when he is this good on frontman duties, he has them in the palm of his hands as he whips up the already fervent crowd at every given opportunity, alternating between drinking beer and water before spraying it onto the up-for-it crowd. As he states, they once thought about using pyrotechnics but instead they turn up, “do what we do”, and have a metal party – or words to that effect. And that’s exactly what they do as they leave it to the riffs to spark and fly.

The new song aired tonight, ‘Sons of Salem’, is another riffy beast of a song, and the crowd reaction is very positive. Sandwiched nicely in-between standard bearers ‘The Filthy and the Few’ and their Motörhead homage ‘Devil’s Whip’, it holds up well. Ben confirms they will indeed be heading into the studio in January to record a new album.

It says a lot about the type of gig it has been when boarding a train on the way home you are surrounded by fellow gig-goers possessing broad smiles on their faces, clutching merch t-shirts, and looking rather hot and sweaty. But they look mightily pleased they’ve chosen a night to be entertained by a whole evening’s worth of tremendous hefty-riffy, no-nonsense, hard rock. It might be a long hard road to rock’s top mountain spot, but the attempt to get there might be where the most fun is to be had.

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