For anyone who is a fan of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento’s stylish films, the accompanying music by Goblin in many of them is a big part of why those films are so memorable. Deep Red, Suspiria, Tenebrae, Phenomena, and even Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, all benefitted greatly from Goblin’s moody, pounding scores. And now, audiences are being treated to the band’s first ever North American tour. On Saturday, it hit New Jersey’s recently remodeled Starland Ballroom in Sayreville.
Formed in Italy in the early 70’s, Goblin has undergone a number of lineup changes over the years. After a lengthy two decades plus hiatus, they reformed in 2000 to record the soundtrack to Dario Argento’s Sleepless. And in 2005, they recorded the album, Back to the Goblin, which they released on their own website. 2009 brought their first live concerts in 32 years, as they played dates in Europe, and later, in Japan and Australia. In October, they toured North America for the first time ever, with original members Massimo Morante on guitar and Maurizio Guarini and Claudio Simonetti on keyboards. Now, after the enthusiastic response to these shows, a second leg has been added. And though Simonetti has left this leg, original members Fabio Pignatelli on bass and Agostino Marangolo have been added, giving fans 4/5 of the original lineup.
OK, now back to the show. Opening act Zombi, based out of Pittsburgh, where else, set the tone. With only two members, one on bass and synthesizers and another on drums, they created an eerie sound, at times reminiscent of Tangerine Dream, or Jan Hammer of Miami Vice fame. At one point, it almost sounded like they were about to go into Rush’ Subdivisions. And, as anyone who’s heard 2-piece bands like Local H or The White Stripes can attest, you can get a lot of sound out of two people. Their music would fit well in a number of horror movies, so hopefully they’ll get the chance to score some films.
Just prior to Goblin hitting the stage, a dancer came out to perform a few moves. Looking similar maybe to actress Asia Argento, she returned later in undead makeup to dance to the band performing “Zombi”. Goblin had always looked to prog-rock bands like Yes, King Crimson and early Genesis for inspiration. That type of sound was on display at the Starland, as one could close their eyes and imagine Emerson, Lake and Palmer on stage. But Goblin has taken their influences and created a unique sound of their own. At times, they rocked ‘almost’ as hard as Metallica. But their music is synonymous with Argento’s horror classics, and as they played their signature tracks, scenes from those movies were shown on a screen behind the band.
Massimo on guitar/Aidan Zammit on keyboards
Certainly, Goblin’s music was as integral to Argento’s movies as was the director’s use of color and startling use of bloody and gory images. It’s a part of what makes those movies so memorable. And it reminds one how important music is to film. Would Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark be as exciting without their rousing scores by John Williams? Tangerine Dream took what might have been just another teen comedy in Risky Business and elevated it to something special, and their eerie score for William Friedkin’s Sorcerer gave that film an increased sense of danger and dread. And I believe the last three Star Wars films, though wildly successful, aren’t as highly thought of as the original three because their scores weren’t anywhere near as memorable. For the first three films, you wanted to stay through the credits just to hear every triumphant note. The Exorcist. Halloween. Re-Animator. All with distinctive themes/scores that added immeasurably to the film.
And on that note, we’d like to thank Goblin for gracing our shores with this tour, even if it did take about forty years for them to do so! Catch them if you can for their last few remaining dates. And let’s hope we’ll get to see them live again soon.