Who could ask for a better live music event for the month of October? With Halloween less than two weeks away, seeing Goblin was perfectly fitting. Goblin is, of course, an Italian progressive rock band known primarily for providing Italian giallo/horror director Dario Argento with lots of excellent soundtrack music over the years.
I’ve been a Goblin fan since sometime in the first half of the nineties, after reading an article on them (written by Chas. Balun I think) and realizing that I’d already heard and loved their score for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. I quickly made up for lost time and started buying Goblin soundtrack LPs, and later the CD reissues.
Then, in 2000, it was announced that they would be playing at Cultcon in New York. My brother and I went, first stopping in Austin to see Mirror play in an old church during a thunderstorm, and then hopping a flight to New York, where we met up with my friend Jeff and his friend, Purple. At Cultcon, we almost immediately ran into Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, who revealed that it wasn’t actually Goblin who was performing the event, but Simonetti’s new project, Daemonia. Daemonia, of course, play mostly Goblin songs, so it was almost like seeing Goblin (just like seeing “Diamond Head” was almost like seeing Diamond Head – see previous post). Despite some delays caused by sound problems, and despite the whole thing taking place in a hotel conference room, the Daemonia set was great. Afterwards, infamous Cannibal Holocaust director Ruggero Deodato walked by and clapped my brother on the shoulder, saying something like, “great show, eh?”. My friend Jeff, who worked as a DJ at Foothill College radio station KFJC at the time, set up an interview with the band too, something we all took part in. Good times. Here’s a photo:
And here's a brief write-up on the event.
Fast forward to 2013, and Goblin are in the middle of their first ever U.S. tour. This particular show was originally slated to happen at the Regency, up on Van Ness Ave., but it ended up getting moved to the Warfield, down on Market St. I can only suppose this is because the Warfield holds more people, but I could be wrong.
As we entered the Warfield, it immediately became apparent that there was a line for the merch table. That’s not something I see often. Goblin had a fair amount of things on sale, including several shirts, the new tour EP released by Death Waltz, solo CDs by Claudio Simonetti and Maurizio Guarini, a DVD, and posters. The line was waited in, money was spent.
Things got started right on time, something which should happen more often.
I’ve seen Secret Chiefs 3 before, but can’t remember exactly when. I think they played with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum once. That said, they’re one of those bands that seems to revel in doing the unexpected, so I was interested to see what they had up their sleeves for the evening.
As it turned out, they proved to be the perfect opener, playing super dramatic and highly complicated music with more than a few nods to the soundtrack genre (if “soundtrack” can be called a genre). The members wear hoods, but I could see Matt Lebofsky under a hood and standing behind a bank of keyboards. Why is it that anytime there is a band with such an intense level of musicianship, he is somehow involved? At any rate, the band reminded me a bit of Fantomas’ “The Director’s Cut” album, at least in the sense that they took iconic soundtrack music and made it their own. This comparison is made more appropriate by the fact that both bands include ex-Mr. Bungle members. I probably didn’t catch all of the soundtrack pieces, but they played an amped up version of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” score, with the main keyboard melody taking a back seat to heavy guitar sounds, and Ernest Gold’s “Exodus” main theme (I admit having to look this one up – I’ve heard it before, but thought it was Morricone), with some nice trumpet work before the rest of the band kicked in. There were a couple of other covers as well.
The band played their brand of musical calculus with obvious enjoyment, switching instruments with abandon and delivering a set that was by turns ominous and frantic. The instrumentation for the evening was guitar, keyboards, bass, drum, violin, and trumpet. Quite a schizophrenic soundtrack it was.
Goblin’s arrival on stage was preceded by a young, female dancer who gyrated across the stage with wild abandon for a few minutes before an ominously masked figure appeared. The silvery demon mask looked similar to the one from the Argento-produced film, Demons, and it soon became apparent that the man behind the mask was none other than Goblin keyboardist/composer Claudio Simonetti.
The rest of the band soon joined him on stage, launching into the evening’s sole nod to the band’s recent output, Magic Thriller, from “BackToTheGoblin 2005”. It’s a good album, but doesn’t approach their best material. That said, the song did its job of whetting our appetite for the songs we knew were coming.
The 2013 touring version of Goblin is a five piece band (not counting the dancer). From the classic line-up, only Claudio Simonetti, guitarist Massimo Morante, and keyboardist Maurizio Guarini remain. Bassist Fabio Pignatelli has been replaced by Bruno Previtali and drummer Agostino Marangolo has been replaced by Daemonia drummer Titta Tani. Although I’m not sure whether or not he is a permanent member of the band, Previtali played bass on the live Daemonia CD, making the 2013 Goblin a combination of Goblin and Daemonia.
What followed was an evening of musical perfection, with a huge screen behind the band displaying scenes from the movies the music was originally written for, namely Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebre, Phenomena, Non Ho Sonno (aka Sleepless), and Dawn of the Dead.
Several songs were played from the band’s first non-soundtrack album, “Roller”, namely Dr. Frankenstein, Roller, Aquaman, and the epic Goblin (come to think of it, that’s most of the album). They also played …E Suono Rock, an track from their only album to feature vocals,” Il Fantastico Viaggio del “Bagorozzo” Mark”. The wordless vocals featured in this song weren’t sung live though, instead produced via sample.
The rest of the set was soundtrack music, all from Dario Argento films, except three tracks from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which Argento produced). My only quibble is that Zombi/Dawn of the Dead’s L’alba Dei Morti Viventi and Zombi were performed as a medley, so we didn’t get the complete version of L’alba Dei Morti Viventi, which is one of my absolute favorite Goblin songs. The dancer from the beginning reappeared during the medley, performing a zombie dance and menacing Morante as he played.
She also appeared during Suspiria, appropriately dressed as a ballerina:
Simonetti introduced Tenebre through a vocoder, which electronically filtered his voice so that it sounded robotic. It wasn’t until I saw Daemonia play back in 2000 that I realized that the strange melody in Tenebre was actually a vocal part, performed using a vocoder. One of the words sounds like “Paura”, which is Italian for “fear”, but I couldn’t make out the others. Simonetti did his best to get the audience to sing along. We tried.
The sound was excellent throughout their set, and the songs were, combined with the images from the films, took me right back to that early excitement I felt when I originally discovered the films and soundtracks. It was like stepping into an emotional time-capsule. I think a lot of other attendees felt the same way.
The music from Non Ho Sonno was probably the heaviest moment of the evening (in the traditional sense of the word). This soundtrack was a comeback moment for the band, who had reformed after years of inactivity to score the film. The resulting music is almost heavy metal, as opposed to their other horror soundtrack work, which ranges from straight-up progressive rock to creepy, keyboard-laden horror melodies. Absent from this set was their non-horror soundtrack work, which is just as well, since their horror soundtracks are by far the strongest.
They played for around 90 minutes, and performed one encore – Zaratozom, from Zombi/Dawn of the Dead, before taking their bows and heading offstage, promising to be out at the merch table for autograph signing and such. We elected to hit the road, so we could catch the midnight broadcast of the most recent The Walking Dead episode. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Surprisingly, we made it home with about ten minutes to spare.
According to the official Goblin site and the New Goblin site (and also a message on the New Goblin Facebook page), this particular line-up was only for this tour. It looks like the Daemonia portion (including Simonetti) of the band is out, and original members Agostino Marangolo and Fabio Pignatelli are back on board. Hopefully they'll tour again, whatever the line-up. I'm very happy to have caught this line-up though, especially now that I know it won't be repeated.