Monday, December 2, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Goblin & Zombi (Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee)

It's sort of baffling to consider that legendary Italian prog rock institution Goblin just recently, after forty years in existence, embarked on their first North American tour. What's even more surprising though is that rather than merely sticking to the usual New York-Chicago-LA axis for their overdue stateside debut, the band, best known for scoring a number of 1970s horror film staples, mostly by Italian giallo auteur Dario Argento, extended their stay for a second string of dates in smaller, often ignored, cities scattered across the Midwest and down the East Coast. If the announcement was a little unexpected though, nobody in Milwaukee was about to start asking any questions as to why Goblin picked now to visit our fair city, and instead made tonight's stop at Turner Hall one of the most anticipated concerts of the year. Thankfully, all that excitement was justified.

Opening the show was Pittsburgh duo Zombi, who take their name and a great deal of their ominous aesthetic from the soundtrack Goblin composed for the European release of George A. Romero's 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead and found a predictably warm welcome from the assembled mass of metalheads, prog dorks and synth aficionados of every stripe, some of who had come in from out of town specifically for the show. Shortly after their intensely spacey 45-minute set, and a fair amount of meticulous soundchecking, the esteemed headliner's long-awaited appearance began, oddly, with a lithe, black-clad ballerina twirling a ribbon over this synthesizer and that, as if to bless the stage, before the band emerged and took their places; guitarist Massimo Morante out front, looking very Spinal Tap with his long, teased-out hair and leather vest, especially in contrast to his more-modest bandmates. 

Bold fashion choices aside, Morante and the rest of the group, drummer Agostino Marangolo, keyboardist Maurizio Guarini, bassist Fabio Pignatelli and newcomer Aidan Zammit on synths (replacing founding member Claudio Simonetti, who had returned for the earlier US dates, but now fronts the separate entity "Simonetti's Goblin"), attacked a set that was epic from the first note and only climbed higher from there. For 45-minutes or so, they focused on hard-rocking deep cuts, including material off 1976's Roller, before moving on to highlights from their most celebrated film scores, the aforementioned Zombi along with Argento projects like Suspiria, Profondo Rosso and the funky Tenebre. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, effusively thanking the crowd in broken English, the audience showing their appreciation in turn by reveling enthusiastically in every bout of ten-ton riffage and every soaring synth solo, just happy to have them there.

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