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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Italian Horror Maestros Goblin Land in America, Belatedly

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An instrumental Italian progressive-rock band with a cumbersome history and a cult following, Goblin built its vast reputation largely by composing scores for iconic horror films in the 1970s. Yet longtime keyboardist Maurizio Guarini prefers sci-fi movies.

That small but significant difference is indicative of the seemingly endless deviations this band has experienced since its formation in 1972, including name changes, lineup rotations and touring schedules that never included North America. In fact, Goblin didn’t perform live on this continent until October, when they played 21 shows that sold so well an additional 13 shows were added. On Sunday, Dec. 1, Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom will be this latest leg of the tour’s second stop, for what promises to be a memorable evening for fans of Goblin’s highly listenable dark majesty, which combines elements of early Genesis, King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Gentle Giant and Pink Floyd.

“We didn’t have the occasion in the ’70s, and we abandoned the idea after some time,” says Guarini when asked why it took so long for the band to make its first trek to the United States. “Finally we made it! It was just amazing—the exchange of energy between us and the audience—just incredible and powerful. We weren’t expecting this kind of response.”

Reports from cities on the October tour indicate that Goblin’s set list included themes from such films as 1975’s Profondo Rosso, 1977’s Suspiria and 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, as well as selections from non-film work, namely 2005’s Back to the Goblin, the band’s most recent album of original material. The quintet even performed the entire score to Suspiria, a grisly film about an American ballet student’s dance of death in Germany, at the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin in late October.

Guarini suggests that Milwaukee’s audience will be treated to more of the same. “We didn’t change much,” he says. “Maybe some last-minute surprise, but no guarantee.”

Goblin’s brand of so-called horror music might sound quaint in the aftermath of shock-rockers Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and Slipknot. But with a progressive-rock renaissance taking place during the past decade, entire generations of listeners have found their way to Goblin, whose sound is refined and subdued, allowing the music itself (and not the musicians) to instill anxiety and fear. At the same time, this music can be as complex and challenging as that created by Goblin’s better-known prog counterparts.

The band’s latest EP is a slab of red vinyl featuring four Goblin classics re-recorded specially for this tour and released, of course, on Halloween.

While lineup changes plagued Goblin from the beginning (and resulted in a 22-year hiatus that spawned new incarnations with names like Back to the Goblin, Goblin Rebirth and The Goblin Keys), perhaps none have been as significant as the desertion of original keyboard player Claudio Simonetti, who left after the October dates and took the rhythm section with him to form Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin Reloaded. Two former Goblin members from the ’70 (Fabio Pignatelli and Agostino Marangolo) and longtime soundtrack composer Aidan Zammit have since replaced that trio. Guarini claims the changes have made his band even better.

“Claudio didn’t share the same interests of the band, so we decided to follow a different path,” Guarini says. “Goblin now have Fabio and Agostino back onboard. The original rhythm section is key for Goblin. People that will be able to see our reunited lineup performing live will experience the real Goblin sound.”

Goblin headline the Turner Hall Ballroom on Sunday, Dec. 1, with opener Zombi. Doors open at 7 p.m.