There’s nothing inherently wrong with mixing music and comedy, but it has to be done in a particular way to properly work. It helps if a band can be genuinely funny like The Hell or augment their humour with noticeable musical chops like Avatar, but even just framing themselves as a blatant parody à la Steel Panther or Ninja Sex Party at least has appeal. For Nekrogoblikon, on the other hand, there’s no appeal to speak of; take away their shtick of a guy in a rubber goblin mask running around with them onstage, and they’d easily be among the most stupid, horrifically bland death metal bands in existence. And yet, there was a period – namely when any band with a gimmick clogged up every media outfit imaginable – where that was positioned as enough, and with the ironic perfect scores and column inches that could and should have been offered to far more deserving acts, the putrid stench of Nekrogoblikon was embedded within modern rock. Hell, even by covering them now, it’s perpetuating the idea that a sure-fire way to get attention is through stupid gimmicks to augment a lack of talent or imagination.
There is a point to this, though, directed at both listeners and bands who think Nekrogoblikon is a worthy way to spend time. For listeners, this is a band who play infinitesimally insignificant role in a genre with hundreds, if not thousands of better options; for bands who may believe that emulating their “success” is a way to get noticed, here’s some advice – don’t. Because really, what is there that’s here to become some enamoured by? A beyond-basic death metal album produced in a way that crushes it into translucent fragments, topped off by a vocalist who sounds like he guzzles acid for fun? Yeah, that’s appealing, but what’s worse is they’re the better moments here. The more standard metal of Mold and Dressed As Goblins may be cut to ribbons will no body whatsoever, but they might as well be opuses compared to the trance influence on Dragons that genuinely sounds like a MIDI recording, the blaring chiptune of The Magic Spider which borders so close to being totally unlistenable, or the hair-pulling obnoxiousness of The Many Faces Of Dr. Hubert Malbec‘s circus music. And for a band who are so clearly trying to shove themselves in the listener’s face by any means necessary, it’s not even memorable, even in a memetic way. Dressed As Goblins may verge on that given how the titular line is repeated ad nauseum, but really the only thing that’ll (unfortunately) stick is Nicholas Von Doom’s vocals, and the sound of his profuse, uncontrollable vomiting with every syllable.
All that is probably convincing enough to not touch this album with a ten foot pole, but if not, perhaps the lyrics which are just as pointless and asinine as everything else will do the job. And they are just as throwaway, ranging from fantasy imagery with as little musical craft as putting a Dungeons & Dragons manual to music on The Magic Spider and Goblins, to what can only be described as a warped take on Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s book Goodnight Moon on Thanks For Nothing Moon. There’s nothing close to depth or intelligence, and with the slimy film of forced humour that oozes over literally everything here, it can be genuinely hard to stomach at points.
But the most infuriating thing about Welcome To Bonkers and indeed Nekrogoblikon as a whole stems deeper than that, circling back to the floods of unwarranted promotion that was once given to them, and that’s where they stand when it comes to the representation of metal as a whole. At long last metal finally seems to be gaining a positive public presence, and shaking off the stigma of being exclusively for weirdos and fantasy nerds, but with an album like this, Nekrogoblikon are actively dredging up those old stereotypes purely for themselves to stay relevant. They get the promotion they want, reach a point where they become enough of a force to get wider recognition, and the paradigm shifts back to how it once was, leaving the uphill battle to start all over again. And this isn’t an issue exclusively linked to Nekrogoblikon – you could make the exact same argument for bands like Alestorm or Gwar – but they’ve never had the sort of push that this band have, nor do they have as little that’s actually noteworthy. Sure, there’s the goblin hype man at live shows, but move that aside for recorded output, and everything comes falling apart at the seams.
And truly, when it does fall apart, what’s left in it’s wake is a calamitous waste of time that isn’t even worth digging through to find some redeeming qualities. Even aside from how infuriatingly gimmick-ridden and potentially harmful it is, it’s about as shoddy and amateurish as you can expect from death metal, with terrible production, worse lyrics, and the foetid air of a band who know how skull-boringly dumb they are and that they’ll get away with it all the same. Welcome To Bonkers is that rare shitshow of a release that can’t get a single thing right, and where it’ll be a totally commendable achievement if a worse album is released this year. Actually, to call this an album might be giving Nekrogoblikon too much credence; more than anything, this is just an insult.
For fans of: Psychostick, Dethklok, Trollfest
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Welcome To Bonkers’ by Nekrogoblikon is released on 6th April.