Monday, 1 May 2017

Goblin's "Roller" (and "Chi?" single)

Title: Roller
Year: 1976
Composer: Goblin

This time I’m reviewing a studio album by the band Goblin who also wrote film music. The album is written in their usual instrumental prog-rock style and should please anyone who’s a fan of their film scores. However the album let's them loose from the constraints a film score might have and gets to show their versatility as an actual band. The version I own is a part of the 6CD compilation album The awakening from 2012 which also includes two bonus tracks, namely a single release of music from a TV series called Chi? also from 1976 which I couldn’t find any information about.

The opening Roller is very similar to Goblin’s Profondo rosso with its irregular staccato rhythms, church organ and groovy guitar solo playing the main melody. The overall mood isn’t as menacing as its inspiration but rather playful and extremely fun. Once again the track ends with a giant organ conclusion to a glorious major chord that sends shivers down my spine. A brilliant opener! The following Aquaman opens in a much more restrained manner with sounds of waterdrops and otherworldly, echoy synth melodies which slowly make room to a mellow, improvisatory electric guitar solo over the established base. Eventually the cue’s starting sounds make a return bringing it to a perfect circle.

Snip-snap is a complete departure from the previous two tracks. It reminds me of funky riffs artists like Herbie Hancock would create. The sound is typical for the era and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It isn’t bad by any means but unfortunately not that memorable either. Il risveglio del serpente begins similarly to Aquaman with surprisingly jazzy harmonies and progressions for a clear piano solo. It’s probably the most accessible cue on the album and offers a nice breather between the more experimental tracks. The short addition of a saxophone at the cue’s last portion is a nice one too.

Enormous 11-minute Goblin starts the album’s latter half with sound effects resembling flames. Then a piano ostinato appears which then turns to the cue’s main melody, easily the best one on the album. It begins with a longlined synth tune whereas the B section is more mischievous with its irregular rhythms and odd synth sounds. From that on the ostinato and main melody start to appear in short snippets through the controlled chaos of different musical soloists. From the 5-minute mark the cue cools down to moods similar to tracks 2 and 4 but the soundscape is more outer space than underwater. As the end draws nearer the track gains momentum through those funky riffs of Snip-snap before the main melody returns with a glorious final rendition after a long drum solo. Compared to the previous cue, Dr. Frankenstein is a bit of a letdown. The ominous starting sounds are quite fun though and sound like a part of a Goblin film score. The problem is that the track isn’t able to form a memorable melody and hence sounds more like a filler than a closing cue. The last 2-minutes of the track try to redeem it with much faster, absolutely bonkers synth sounds and renditions of the beginning’s melodies but it’s a bit too little too late and the sounds are so out-there they actually become somewhat irritating.

The CD ends with two bonus tracks for a TV series. I’m not sure whether Goblin wrote more music for the series but judging by the single I would certainly hope so. Chi? part 1 begins with mysterious tinkling guitars before the main melody is introduced. It sounds like a cop show theme from the 70s complete with those signature staccato brass chords. Eventually the mysterious opening sounds sneak in underneath the main melody and end the track into a menacing note. Part 2 is even more threatening once again returning to the style of Profondo rosso with rhythmic synth textures and a more longlined main melody that is played on top of it and then reprised with an organ and guitar solo. Though the melody isn’t as memorable as in Profondo rosso or Roller it’s again nice to hear a cue like this which is both menacing and quite beautiful at the same time. If there are more cues from the series somewhere, I would certainly like to hear them based on this marvelous single.

Roller is a bit uneven album because the abundance of contrasting styles can be quite distracting at times. Nevertheless it shows great versatility of the musicians and is a must buy for the fans of the band. I also love the additional EP-release which luckily resurrects the CD from the letdown of the actual album’s closing track.

Rating: ****1/2

1. Roller (04:38) *****
2. Aquaman (05:22) *****
3. Snip-snap (03:37) ***
4. Il risveglio del serpente (03:27) *****
5. Goblin (11:10) *****
6. Dr. Frankenstein (06:00) ***

Bonus tracks:
7. Chi? part 1 (single A) (03:15) *****
8. Chi? part 2 (single B) (03:20) *****

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