Orange Goblin – Healing Through Fire (Album of the Week)

This week I’m actually grabbing an album from this century, it’s back to 2007 and the very general genre descriptor of “stoner metal” for an ace of a record that would cast a new spotlight on a long-running band.

Orange Goblin – Healing Through Fire

Released May 21, 2007 via Sanctuary Records

My Favorite Tracks – They Come Back (Harvest Of Skulls), Cities Of Frost, The Ale House Braves

Orange Goblin of London, England had been active since 1995 and were on their sixth album at this point, and also first for what was a semi-major record label with Sanctuary. While the record deal would not really pan out as Sanctuary would essentially fold a year later, Orange Goblin would see expanded interest with this release.

Healing Through Fire is not a concept album but does tie a few themes through its songs, the theme being the Great Plague of medieval Europe. The plague’s worst years were in the 1300’s, though this record does reference events and people of 1600’s England as well, a century which also saw plague outbreaks.

Orange Goblin’s lineup had been stable through this point, with Ben Ward on vocals, Joe Hoare on guitar, Martyn Millard on bass and Chris Turner with the drums. Keyboards on the album were provided by Jason Graham. The album is a fairly lean affair with 9 songs in 43 minutes. Note that there is a deluxe reissue version with a ton of bonus and live tracks.

The Ballad Of Solomon Eagle

The opener kicks off loud and groovy with some very active riffing that clearly separates Orange Goblin from the more monotonous strains of stoner rock out there. The song deals with Solomon Eccles, also known as Solomon Eagle. Eagle was from 1600’s London and had been a composer, but later denounced his prior life and became a Quaker. This group were religious pariahs during this time. Solomon was known to go through public with few clothes on, if any, and denounce civilization. His proclamations of the end were fueled by the Plague as well as the 1666 Great Fire of London. He is a pretty curious person to feature in song, something he wouldn’t have liked as he considered music a sin after his Quaker conversion.

Vagrant Stomp

Another loud and stompy song that gets into some gross medical stuff from the time period. The song also uses the phrase “terminal spirit disease” in its lyrics, that also being the title of a 1994 album from Swedish melo-death pioneers At The Gates. No idea if the reference was meant for anything.

The Ale House Braves

This one is a faster-paced slammer that paints a picture of economic class disparity in medieval England. The destitute have nothing to lose and are coming for the well-off, a tale as old as time. There’s a very nice old-school guitar jam in this one too.

Cities Of Frost

Things slow down a bit here, which in stoner/doom parlance means it gets even heavier. This excellent song is a death march through a town being destroyed. No real clue what this is about, possibly the London Fire but it’s not specifically mentioned. Could be some random stuff that doesn’t tie into any real theme. While Orange Goblin are clearly their own entity, this is a song that gets a bit into High On Fire territory.

Hot Knives And Open Sores

Another one about the Plague and how gross everything was. I can’t imagine how nasty it would have been in the days before modern medicine when people were using every stupid thing in the book to try and treat the disease.

Hounds Ditch

More classic rock-based groovy stuff, again dealing with the piles of bodies around plague-ridden London and all the things that come to feed on the dead. This one switches to a pretty heavy end section to really emphasize the problem with lots of diseased dead bodies laying around.

Mortlake (Dead Water)

A quick and quiet instrumental gives a bit of a break here before jumping right back into the plague-laden mess.

They Come Back (Harvest Of Skulls)

This amazing song truly spells out the cost of the plague and its all-consuming nature. The dead themselves were a source of infection and would claim the living. This song has some very cool tempo changes and really brings the point home about how people thought the plague was a punishment from God and that it would be the endtime judgment a lot of people were waiting for.

Beginner’s Guide To Suicide

The closing track takes a left turn and lays out a slow blues-based effort. The lyrics are a haunting depiction of someone choosing suicide by poison as opposed to suffering from the plague. It’s a pretty harrowing position to be in but I’m sure plenty had to make that choice. The song is very well done and caught a lot of interest, today it stands as the band’s most-streamed track on Spotify.

Healing Through Fire was a watershed moment for Orange Goblin. While the album did not bust through charts, it truly put the band on the map and established their sound after several years of occasionally wandering through different parts of the rock and metal universe. The stoner genre had always been a constant presence though with a bit of a low ceiling in terms of dynamics and creativity, Orange Goblin were one band who showcased a higher degree of songwriting and arrangement to make something truly special out of the music.

The band’s choice to shape the songs around a theme was interesting and clearly paid off. It’s no secret among metal bands that the Great Plague is a fertile ground for lyrical inspiration, it was one of the most brutal times in human existence. Orange Goblin did fine work with the Plague as their creative backdrop.

The next decade would go well for Orange Goblin, three albums through the 2010’s would see the band’s stock continue to rise. While now an entity for nearly 30 years, it’s fair to say they really hit the nail on the head in 2007 with Healing Through Fire.

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