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King Goblin : Cryptozoology

If a dose of SPACE DEATH ROCK sounds like it might be appealing, King Goblin are the band to deliver it.

One day, when time permits, I'd like to do some proper stats on Doom distribution, and see how the various genres are represented and appreciated across different countries. Even without actual numbers to hand, though, I'm prepared to bet that Japan absolutely pwns the single highest percentage of 'batshit-crazy-undefinable' bands, with Italy following some way behind. That'll be based on almost every Japanese band in my collection falling into that category: which isn't, to be fair, a vast number - but then MA only lists a total of 74 Doom bands ...with about 300 "x/y/z" genres between them.

So, King Goblin. Yep, certifiable batshit-crazy stuff: starting off as a Grindcore/Death outfit in the '90s, they've somehow developed into some sort of a Jazz/Prog-influenced Heavy Rock-Psychedelic/Death/Doom mixture that they like to call SPACE DEATH ROCK. And why not, I guess; I'm fairly sure nobody else was using it. This second full-length - following a flurry of demos between 2001/2004, and a debut album in 2007 - comes in an equally wayward package, presenting the CD in a 7" single-sized sleeve, where Sumito Sekine's artwork - vaguely reminiscent of non-sexualised Giger biomechanical machinery - gives no real clue as to what to expect. Maintaining the ambiguity, lyrics are printed in Japanese, despite being sung in English.

I should note that one of the reasons for the long deIay since debut 'Goblin King' was the original guitarist Masashi Suzuki leaving in 2009: his replacement, Kelly Churko, sadly then suffered illness which led to his eventual death in 2014. This album is dedicated to Churko, and though the bulk of it was recorded in late 2014 onwards, the brief introductory and non-representative Industrial/Noise track is a piece of his joint work with Astro.

More typically 'Cryptozoology' sticks to the certain charming madness of King Goblin's usual method, which sounds something like throwing together the choppy combination lead/rhythm guitar rock'n'roll of Mick Green's The Pirates, some bassy, Prog/Metal Voivod, a chunk of jazzy '90s King Crimson, and a Sleestak-or-similar heavy Psych/Stoner jamming groove. Add some low growled and grunted Death Metal-type vocals (contributed by drummer and bassist)...and you have something that - perhaps surprisingly - actually hits more often than it misses. Though a little tighter, and a little less everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink than the debut, that still makes it by no means the easiest of beasts to pin down: expect, as they say, the unexpected, and you won't be disappointed when the stranger twists and turns leap out and ambush you.

And...well, if I say that the single doomiest track is, in fact, a super-slow and cavernous cover of Mountain's 'Mississippi Queen' (here retitled 'Birmingham Queen'), that probably sums up where the band's coming from: Doom-as-heaviness, rather than Doom-as-melancholy. And when they're rolling along as a gruff-voiced, '70s-sounding power-trio, that's what you get - a comparatively straightforward dose of sturdy percussion and tectonic bass rumbles backing some nifty alternation between riffs and lead breaks. Even when they're not, it's still undoubtedly quite a massive sound, just not a particularly Doom one: the more avante-garde digressions can be a little too technical, too jazzy and too chirpily upper-scale, for that. Fortunately - with the exception of the shortest track, 'Prophet' - those tend to be limited to short sections sandwiched between less challenging structures.

Hand on heart, I could say that I've honestly enjoyed discovering this. I would also have to admit that much of that is due to the long-distant but bedrock part of my musical background spent in trawling bargain-bin '70s vinyl weirdness: I can see there being more instant appeal to fans of things like 13th Floor Elevators' acid-rock eccentricity than those who prefer more contemporary and clear delineations. That's kind of where tracks like the lengthy, improvisational closer 'Pilgrim' belong, anyway - in the heyday of experimental Heavy Rock, vaguely signposting the way towards what would eventually be "proper" Doom. So, if you're looking for an obvious Trad-type venture, this perhaps isn't going to light your fire - if you like to mess about with things off the beaten track, there's certainly enough heavy in King Goblin's mettle to make it worth an investigation.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. 星への帰還 - Return To The Planet
2. King Of The Flies
3. Prophet
4. 2020
5. Garadama
6. Birmingham Queen
7. 巡礼者 - Pilgrim

Duration : Approx. 41 minutes

Visit the King Goblin bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-03-26 by Mike Liassides
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