Thursday, October 17, 2013

Goblin at Webster Hall

Admit it: You had no idea that Goblin was a great band. You knew that they sounded awesome, especially when accompanied by Dario Argento's beautiful sets, mysterious props, gruesome death scenes and adequate screenplays. But who actually listens to Goblin when they're not part of a movie soundtrack?

As it turns out, seeing Goblin on their first ever American tour feels like finding out that Trent Reznor composed music outside of his film scores. Opener "Magic Thriller," (forgive the title--English is not their first language) from 2005's Back to Goblin, proved that they didn't need film to make cinematic music, and that their mojo outlasted Argento's by about 20 years. The unpredictability of songs like "Dr. Frankenstein" and "Roller" lent themselves well to improvisation, though tonally they all sounded like the albums.

Like a lot of bands that people don't know how to classify, Goblin get called "progressive." Their songs aren't especially long or bombastic, although Goblin's adventurous composition senses (there wasn't a chorus in sight all evening) helped endear them to the Rush and King Crimson fans in attendance. Their arrangements are more electronic than symphonic, with proto-industrial keyboards laying down the haunt on the subdued "Aquaman" and Profondo Rosso's "Mad Puppet," the latter's 12-bar progression showing hints of the kind of hit Goblin could have been streamlined into, had they worked with an outside producer and not a film director.

But thankfully, Goblin found their audience through film, and the show's second half was a horror movie hit list, with the title tracks to Suspiria, Tenebre, Phenomena and Profondo Rosso all performed in a thrilling sequence. "L'alba Dei Morti Viventi" and "Zombi," from the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack, played out like a Wendy Carlos nightmare, drifting into controlled psychedelia that culminated with a dancer and a whispering vocalist joining the band onstage. They were reminders of the band's celluloid history, particularly the ballet school giallo Suspiria, which I'd almost forgotten at that point.

Openers Secret Chiefs 3, avant-rock veterans featuring members of Mr. Bungle and Estradasphere, noted their place on the bill by covering a few movie themes in their set, including "The Godfather," "The Exodus" and best of all, "Halloween." Their originals, a progressive blend of jazz, surf-rock, metal and klezmer, were equally compelling.

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