I was expecting an intimidating interview. Ben Ward stands about 8-feet tall (it’s very likely to be less than this but his energy makes him appear as a man mountain) and the tattoos on one of his massive arms could cover my entire body. All signs, to my mind, of a man who does not mix his words and would likely lose his temper at having to answer some nerdy journalist’s questions at the end of a long day.
But I needn’t have worried. I gave the Orange Goblin lead singer a call and I was extremely relieved to find I was not going to be beaten down the phone line when I was greeted with a friendly, ‘Hello mate, how are ya?’ He informed me that his phone had been playing up all day but that didn’t seem to bother him when I asked how he was. ‘Got a nice cold beer and I’ve just had a lovely dinner so everything’s right with the world!’
A Eulogy For The Damned is Orange Goblin’s latest album; a real head-banging, get drunk, go wild kind of record. A stonking return and a well overdue one, too as it’s been five years since Orange Goblin’s last album, Healing Through Fire. So, no album in five years – where the hell have you been? ‘We’ve still been gigging. We’ve been touring, been all over Europe, been all over the States during that time,’ says Ward. ‘We didn’t get as lazy as people might have thought.’ Also during this time the band has been raising families and collecting the pennies to pay off mortgages (by going to work, not like Robin Hood). Orange Goblin may be a firm favourite of heavy metal loving festival goers but, as Ward alludes, the rock don’t pay the bills. But Orange Goblin was certainly in no rush to record. ‘We didn’t want to commit to writing an album until we felt it was right,’ Ward says. ‘We delivered the best album we possibly could and...hopefully people will realise it’s been worth the wait.’
Initial reviews (and my ears) confirm that the wait was indeed worth it. The band has received much positive feedback from fans and critics which came as a relief to Ward because, as he says, after such a long wait the level of expectancy grows hugely, making it difficult for the band to live up to. Luckily for him, it seems just about everyone is hailing this as the Goblin’s finest work. The consensus from the band is similar: ‘It’s a bit of cliché because every band says it but I think this is the best thing we’ve ever done.’
The recording of A Eulogy... was markedly different to any other OG album. Before, the band would descend upon a residential studio for a couple of weeks. But as Ward says there would be a lot of downtime and that would be filled often with getting drunk, which would make it easy to become unprofessional. This time the band recorded over nine weekends at a local studio. Ideal for someone juggling full-time work and a family with making music. It also allowed the band time to really think about their recorded parts: ‘Everybody could go in, do their bits, and then spend the week listening back to it and assessing what could be better and what could be changed.’ But that's not to say the band didn't enjoy their time there, hey Ben? 'Don’t get me wrong there was a certain amount of booze drunk! But at the right time; we wanted to get the job done first then have a couple of celebratory beers at the end of the day.'
Less time in a confined space also meant there was a hugely decreased chance of tensions and the usual amount of quit-threat acrimony that can arise. Or, as Ward put it in typically forthright fashion, 'We didn't get on each other’s tits like we normally do.'
For A Eulogy... the Goblin brought producer Jamie Dodd on board whose expertise they first recognised when they worked together for a Black Sabbath tribute CD for Metal Hammer magazine. Dodd’s skill at making the band sound crushingly heavy yet utterly crisp and bringing out the very best in Ward’s voice is all the more impressive since this was the first full heavy metal album he has worked on. ‘He just fit right in as part of the band really,’ says Ward. ‘Same sense of humour, really relaxed and I think the fact that he fit in so well really helped bring the best out of everybody. He weren’t afraid to tell people that they could do it better.’
‘I think that anybody that’s ever played in a band and written material will agree that you just sort of know when something’s right because you look around the room and you’re all looking at each other smiling.’ We switch subjects and talk about the actual writing and recording of the album which prompted the smiling band. In the weeks leading up to the recording time all four band members collected their various riffs and other ideas, collating them to present (usually digitally) to the others. Ward’s lyrics however were a different story: ‘I’m the last one to really do anything because I wait until the music’s written until I even think about a vocal melody and once I’ve got the vocal melody I think of the lyrics to fit that,’ he says. ‘It was touch and go whether we was going to be ready. The other guys hadn’t really heard what I planned to do until I came to record it. So I’d be there at the studio doing some vocals on something and looking through the glass at them sort of pleasantly surprised going, ‘He actually sounds quite good!’
In April Orange Goblin will take a new album out on the road for the first time in half a decade. (Ward admitted, ‘The Orange Goblin fans have been amazingly patient with us.’) The run of dates starts in London headlining the Desertfest and lasts the rest of the month across the UK and Ireland. Ward can’t wait to get back on the road: ‘The best thing about touring is basically going on holiday with your best mates, getting free beer and getting paid for it.’
Fifteen years ago Orange Goblin’s debut album Frequencies From Planet Ten crashed its noisy way in to the metal world. It stills sounds exactly what it is: a gang of energetic, angry young men who just want to play some fucking metal. As you would expect the band has matured as songwriters, partly because ‘we don’t do the drugs we used to do.’ But what has been the biggest change in the band? Ward thinks for a second then replies: ‘I was going to say older and wiser, but I think older is the only thing we can guarantee!’
A Eulogy For The Damned will hit iTunes (or, if you're old fashioned like me and you visit those places called Record Shops) next month.