We like collective nouns — those sometimes strange, often evocative, often humorous names for groups of things, like animals, birds, insects, and sea creatures. Examples: A pride of lions, a pack of dogs, a troop of baboons, a litter of kittens, a flock of gulls, a brood of hens, a murder of crows, an exaltation of larks, a parliament of owls, a swarm of bees, a plague of locusts, a school of fish, a bed of clams, a shoal of bass, a pod of orcas.
But what do you call a collective of goblins? Since we’re fans of alliteration, we thought about “a gaggle of goblins”. But a collective of geese (on the ground) is called a gaggle, and geese don’t seem too bright. Goblins, on the other hand, are fiendishly clever. So gaggle is out. (btw, did you know that a collective of geese in flight are called a “skein”?) A “gathering” of goblins might work, but it doesn’t adequately convey the devilish menace or the barely contained chaos that we imagine would ensue.
No, what you call a collective of goblins bent on mischief and mayhem is Nekrogoblikon. And that sulphurous smell in your nostrils? Why, that’s the aroma of the hell-storm unleashed on the band’s forthcoming new album entitled, of course, Stench. Because we have ingratiated ourselves with the goblin hordes, we have been gifted with the opportunity to absorb the miasma of Stench before less-favored humans. In a word, Stench is brilliant, from beginning to end. (more after the jump . . .)
We first encountered Nekrogoblikon just a few weeks ago in preparing a feature we did on GOBLIN METAL (here). They make their home somewhere under the ground in Santa Barbara, California. Until Stench is released, you will have to make do with the debut album, 2007’s Goblin Island. That one was the creation of two of the goblikons, Nicky Calonne and Tim Lyakhoveskiy.
Since then, the band was fleshed out for the purpose of live performance, and certain line-up changes occurred, but the band’s current membership appears stable, and they have now completed the follow-up to Goblin Island. We liked that first album so much that we pestered the goblikons until they let us have an advance listen to Stench.
It’s a substantial slab of music — 12 songs with a total run-time just shy of one hour — and from the starting gate to the finish line, it’s one headlong romp, a furiously paced mad dash with almost no pause for breath.
The influence that comes to mind immediately is Finntroll. Nekrogoblikon invest the music with similar pagan/folk rhythms and melodies and keyboard-executed sounds of traditional folk instruments. But this isn’t the kind of folk metal that brings to mind druids worshipping the wonders of nature. The songs are played at blazing speeds, and the rhythms are those of fast, whirling dances.
Many of the songs are constructed around the same kind of Finnish humppa folk music that forms the foundation of many Finntroll songs, but vastly accelerated in a way that brings to mind images of whirling dervishes, spinning faster and faster until you think heads and arms and legs are about to detach and zoom off into the sky. Other songs, like “Invasion”, are reminiscent of Children of Bodom-style melodic death metal, with galloping Scandinavian riffs and souped-up guitar and keyboard leads.
The consistent feature of all the songs is that they are massively infectious, compulsively headbangable, and deliriously free. The riffing and picking is blindingly fast, the super-tight rhythm section is galvanizing, and the keyboards are unusually inventive. On songs like “No One Survives” and “The Bog”, the keyboards and lead guitar trade off in executing swirling melodies, or take turns on center stage with attention-riveting solos (as in “The Plague” and “Gallows & Graves”, respectively). The keyboards are used to give parts of other songs, such as “This Is Our God”, a symphonic atmosphere.
The vocals in all the songs are a mix of goblinesque cackling/shrieking and deep death-metal growls, but some songs (e.g., “Bears” and “Return To the Sky”) include bursts of clean singing that brought to mind a higher-ranged David Byrne (Talking Heads). Lyrically, the songs seem to have a goblin-themed focus, as did all the music on Goblin Island.
But the craziness of the lyrics and song titles and even the name of the band itself shouldn’t mislead you or obscure the fact that Nekrogoblikon is an immensely talented collective of musicians and songwriters who belong on the global stage with bands like Finntroll. To end where we began: From beginning to end, Stench is a remarkably accomplished work of blazingly fast folk-metal and melodeath that deserves a wide audience.
Pre-production versions of two songs from Stench, the opening track “No One Survives” and “A Feast”, are streaming on the band’s MySpace page.
We also have this vid of the band playing another song from the new album, “Return To the Sky”, at the deliciously named Orctoberfest in Santa Cruz, CA on October 29, 2009. The sound quality isn’t great, but it will give you a taste of the Nekrogoblikon’s catchiness.
As readers, we’re generally frustrated when we read an album review but can’t then go listen to the music or acquire the album if we like what we hear. So, by writing this gun-jumping review, we’re acting in a blatantly inconsistent fashion — because Stench isn’t yet available to the general public and we can’t tell you when it will be. However, as R.W. Emerson said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” So what the fuck.
For fans of Nekrogoblikon who are wondering what’s going on with the album, rest assured that it’s finished — we did hear it, after all — but the band’s original plans for release of the album have hit a few business snags. Those will eventually be resolved, and Stench will emerge (sooner, rather than later, we hope). The band also tells us that they are going to tour in support of Stench, but for now, the best place to catch them live is in Santa Barbara, where they play at least twice a month.
The day will come when Stench is made available to the human masses, and when that day comes, those who hear it may wonder what the hell is happening in the final song on the album, “This Is Our God”. It includes an interlude of drunken conversation, which the band tells us was from an intimate, recorded Halloween show at a home that was broken up by the police. The audio from the mics picked up members of the band talking to the police (along with a couple of ex-goblikon members and a bunch of the band’s closest friends).
The music resumes after that interlude, but the song ends with with another brief conversation between Nicky Calonne (keyboards/vocals) and Tim Lyakhovetskiy (guitar/vocals) that’s both a throwback to how Goblin Island began (the first song, “They Came From Space”) and a segue back to the beginning of Stench if you set the album on repeat. The conversation ends with a question — and the question is answered by the first goblinesque growling on “No One Survives”.
[“Tim Lyakhovetskiy” and “Nicky Calonne” are obviously pseudonyms, because if goblins tell you their true names, it probably gives you some kind of power over them, which ain’t happening.]