Welcome to Bonkers, by Nekrogoblikon
Suggested by Noli-Rose Nikitaki
A metal album full of songs about goblins? Sounds great!
A death metal album full of songs about goblins! Hmm…
A melodic death metal album full of songs about goblins… Getting warmer.
A growling melodic death metal album full of songs about goblins. For god’s sake, why?!
Nekrogoblikon are obsessed with goblins. As far as obsessions go, it’s a bit niche, but there’s nothing wrong with having a passion. Over five studio albums, they sing about goblins. And space. But mostly goblins. Their album art? Goblin themed, and admittedly pretty cool. Their videos? More goblins, including a character called John Goblikon. Welcome to Bonkers promises forty-plus minutes of melodic death metal themed around goblins, with songs such as track four, Dressed as Goblins, and track eleven, Goblins.
I’d originally expected to dismiss Nekrogoblikon as a jokey gimmick band. And honestly, I’d not be the first to do so. They’ve had mixed reviews for their releases, as I guess goblin lore can only spread so thin. Once I discovered it was death metal, my heart sank, as even the most melodic proponents of the genre adopt the trademark growl that’s well established to deflate my musical souffle.
If I’m honest, things started quite badly. The opening song, Mold, which has the fabulous lyrics “Mold, moley mold mold! / Mold, moley mold mold!”, is pretty much a cacophony. It’s a little more layered than I expected, as it contains synth work or keyboards or somesuch. Vocally, there’s two distinct brands, one of which is a guttural scream-growl that sets my teeth on edge. The other is much more palatable, but unfortunately it’s the growl that populates the rest of the album’s output, and that leaves me caught between two stools.
As the album progresses, I do warm to its form. Sure, the lyrics are awful, but there’s a lot of playfulness in the presentation and sound. The Many Faces of Dr. Hubert Malbec brings an almost criminal plagiarism of Mr Bungle’s signature Evil Clown Metal sound, which permeates through the entire album in fits and starts. Dragons is another bouncy track, with a carnival atmos-fear and almost Nu Metal delivery in the growled rapping vocal.
The more I progress through Bonkers backstreets, the more I uncover, well, stuff that’s completely Bonkers. It’s as if the band are trying to get further and further from the Death Metal sound with each passing track. While Dressed As Goblins is a pure growly snarled Death track, by the time we get to Darkness we’re almost in pop-rock territory, and my standout track The Magic Spider has a Seventies Prog Operatic vibe.
This is a fun record, there’s no doubting that. But even with these eclectic and exciting twists and turns, it all comes back to the vocal. It’s a stark question, in the end: does the musical frivolity make amends for the garbage-disposal growl? As much as I’d love to say it does, it clearly does not.
Welcome to Bonkers gets 5/10. If it looks like a goblin, and smells like a goblin, and, most importantly, sounds like a goblin… it’s just a damn goblin.