Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Goblin - Profondo Rosso

Profondo Rosso

Released 1975 on Cinevox
Reviewed by Robin Tripp, 08/05/2006ce

1. Profondo Rosso
2. Death Dies
3. Mad Puppet
4. Wild Session
5. Deep Shadows
6. School at Night
7. Gianna

All music composed and performed by Walter Martino (percussion), Massimo Morante (guitars), Fabio Pignatelli (bass), and Claudio Simonetti (piano and synthesizers).

In collaboration with Giorgio Gaslini and Dario Argento.

Goblin we're a pompous, pretentious, progressive rock band from the heart of suburban Italy, who tended to favour arrangements as loud as a circus orgy and concepts that made Tales from the Topographic Oceans sound like a plotline from Balamory. They released two proper albums during their heyday in the early-to-mid 1970's - the first, Roller, a stab at grandiose rock with nods to Yes, Genesis and early Pink Floyd (specifically, the post-Barrett/pre-Dark Side era), and the second, Il Fantastico Viaggio del "Bagarozzo" Mark, a concept album that took the notion of self-indulgence to near explicit levels of musical masturbation - before finally achieving some sort of notoriety scoring a slew of low budget Italian splatter movies in the late 70's and early 80's. Eventually, they came to the attention of the country's noted giallo auteur, Dario Argento, who brought them onboard for his 1975 thriller, Profondo Rosso (a.k.a. Deep Red), a complex and occasionally surreal "slasher" flick about an English musician wrapped up in a bizarre mess of psychic premonitions, sexual ambiguity, black-clad hatchet murderers, and lashings of the old ultra violence.

The film remains the defining work in the Argento cannon, sadly overshadowed by his follow up film, the gaudy, Technicolor chiller, Suspiria. Similarly, Goblin's work on Deep Red has long been buried beneath the disarming noises, demon voices and clamorous percussion of Suspiria's bombardment of sounds, which, to my mind, is a bit of a shame. The music of Profondo Rosso remains fairly close to the style of Goblin's aforementioned "legitimate" LP, Roller, with a heavy reliance on sporadic bursts of percussion, funk-heavy bass playing, angular guitar riffs, and more awkward key-changes than a drunk on a doorstep. However, the music here takes the funk/progressive references even further and adds some great big clashing crescendos, gongs lifted from Pink Floyd's 'Live at Pompeii', funeral organs to tie in with the horror aspect of the plot, and some suitably swirling synthesisers to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and unease that perhaps only really makes sense when heard in the context of Argento's fluid, free flowing, visuals. The fact that the first song sounds more like a pub band trying to riff on Can - and less like something you' expect to hear in a horror film - is just part of the Goblin (and Argento) charm; as the title track veers off in a variety of bizarre directions where taste and decency are left firmly at the studio door.

Obviously, as with most soundtrack work, the music should only really come to life when viewed in the context of the film itself, but somehow, Goblin managed to overcome this problem, by creating a strange combination of King Crimson and Can - with further nods to the prog-rock aforementioned - whilst also laying the groundwork for their later collaborations with the same filmmaker. It also helps that Goblin (perhaps under the direction of Argento) shy away from the typical techniques of horror sound-tracking, offering up large slabs of monolithic death-rock over scenes of quiet suspense, or going even further on future films like Suspiria, with that insane percussion and the iconic demon lullaby, right the way through to Tenebrae, which offered the bizarre combination of baroque pop and disco. Tracks like Death Dies and Deep Shadows do seem purposely designed to create atmosphere and tension - keeping the whole thing moving whilst simultaneously looking back to the arrangement of the main theme - so obviously, these tracks suffer the most when removed from the visceral impact of the film itself. However, the title track, a glorious three and half minute bombardment of ornate, progressive funk, and later tracks like the blistering and hypnotic six minute groove of Mad Puppet and the beguiling (though no less sinister) lullaby piece, School at Night, are truly iconic moments, equal to anything from the much more acclaimed music of Suspiria.

The tracks on this soundtrack are sequenced in an order different to how they appear in the film, perhaps giving the suggestion that Goblin wanted the album to stand as a record in it's own right (and not just as background fodder for Argento's giddy scenes of intrigue and gore). As a result, I think it more than lives up to the tag of a "great album", though whether or not it holds any appeal to listeners who are less than enamoured with the films of Argento (or Italian horror/giallo in general) is debatable? Certainly, at a time when the "prog" genre is still considered something of a taboo (and perhaps, rightly so), the prospect of a gothic-prog (or soundtrack-porg) album is even more questionable than ever before. Argento's film is bold, brash, vibrant and violent, and tows the line between genius and insanity... something that can also be said about the music of Goblin. However, beyond the jazz chords, tempo changes and the strange time signatures, there are some unbelievably astounding sounds on this album, and, more to the point, some even more astounding (and surprising) melodies, as well.

It just seems that Goblin are one of those bands that - for better or worse - manage to transcend their various influences; and through a combination of reckless stupidity and intense eccentricity, were willing to boldly go where most bands were too embarrassed to go before. Profondo Rosso might lack the all out Goth-horror experimentalism of the occult inflected Suspiria (still one of the best film soundtracks of all time, and a great place to start for those interested in the Goblin sound), but it regardless remains a fine album in it's own right, and should really be an integral purchase for fans of Argento horror, jazz-rock, prog-rock, soundtracks, or the madness of Goblin in general.

Reviews Index