Italians do it better—when it comes to diabolical dirges and demonic disco.
Italians do it better—when it comes to diabolical dirges and demonic disco.

Years Active: 45 (with sporadic breaks and with fluctuating membership).

Provenance: a cosmopolitan city in Italy.

Essential Albums: Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Roller, Dawn of the Dead (aka Zombi), Contamination, Tenebre.

Essential Songs: “Profondo Rosso”; “Mad Puppet”; “Death Dies”; “Aquaman”; “Goblin”; “Suspiria”; "Ai Margini Della Follia"; “Sighs”; “Markos”; “Black Forest”; "Zombi"; "Safari"; “Tirassegno”; “Oblio”; “Risveglio”; “Snip-Snap”; “Dr. Frankenstein”; “Flashing”; “Tenebre”; "Lesbo"; "Pillage"

Influenced by: Pink Floyd, Ennio Morricone, John Carpenter, Mike Oldfield, Miklós Rózsa, King Crimson.

Influence on: Umberto, Trent Reznor, Zombi, SURVIVE, Jonas Reinhardt, Pye Corner Audio, Dylan Ettinger.

Precautions: Goblin are down to two original members (guitarist Massmio Morante and bassist Fabio Pignatelli), following crucial keyboardist Claudio Simonetti’s decision to form his own version of Goblin… shades of Faust there. Such personnel depletion usually augurs poorly for groups who have existed for over four decades. That being said, the material Goblin created during their peak—from about 1975 to 1985, though 2000’s Non Ho Sonno has its moments—is so damned strong, it matters not if hired hands and/or newbies are performing it. When Goblin played Seattle in 2013, they absolutely slayed, refuting conventional wisdom about comeback tours. Let’s hope the last four years haven’t diminished their chops or enthusiasm.

Why You Should Give a Fuck: Goblin actually began as a prog-rock group called Cherry Five, who boasted semi-conventional song structures and prominent vocals (Italian rockers can sing their asses off, if you haven’t noticed: see also Il Balletto Di Bronzo, Area, and Pierrot Lunaire for examples). Cherry Five’s lone self-titled album from 1975 is solid, but it quickly became overshadowed by Goblin’s soundtrack work for Dario Argento and George A. Romero. These Italian badasses had found their true calling: chilling horror-movie aficionados’ marrow with profoundly evocative and eerie atmospheres, yet also forging grooves that ratchet up tension and, against the odds, add surprising doses of funk to your life.

Right out of the creaky gate, their 1975 debut as Goblin, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red), established them as cinematic forces to be reckoned with. They took Mike Oldfield’s score for The Exorcist to even more diabolical levels of sphincter-clenching fear while also conjuring some helter-skelter rhythms and freak-rock tones that made getting scared out of your wits seem supremely cool.

Their 1976 follow-up, Roller, is actually a stand-alone LP, and it proves Goblin could cut it without going off of cues from directors. It’s simply a spooky and occasionally funky prog opus whose cover bears the unforgettable image of a devil playing a violin. (If you see the T-shirt with this image on it at the show, buy it; I did, and my life improved dramatically.)

1977's Suspiria is the Goblin album—and Argento film—most people know, and it’s no shock to understand why: Goblin are operating at their foreboding zenith here. Whether using understated stealth or elegant pandemonium, Goblin summon powerful tremors in the listener, with or without the horrific imagery to accompany them.

With 1982's Tenebre, Goblin proved they could channel disco's metronomic rhythms while infusing the music with a sense of menace and textural audacity—and occasionally levity and cowbell, as "Lesbo" proves. Once again, Goblin showed that their music can stand up on its own without the aid of garish visuals from the warped minds of their filmmaking bosses.

When Goblin performed at Neumos four years ago, they focused on their strongest material, for the most part. I'm not sure what their approach will be for this tour, but it's likely they'll dole out many of their best-known compositions. Whatever the case, this is a bucket-list show for anyone with an interest in top-notch European progressive music and world-class horror-flick soundtracking.

Goblin perform with Mondo Drag Sunday, November 5 at Neumos, 7:30 pm, $30/$75 VIP, 21+.