John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Jerry Goldsmith and Joe Dante. Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock. Some composers become almost synonymous with their directors. And the ones mentioned above are/were some pretty imposing twosomes! But only one director is synonymous with a band. As Forrest Gump might have said, Dario Argento and Goblin went together like carrots and peas during the 1970s. Not coincidentally, the decade was a purple patch for both band and horror maestro. Here’s a short montage I found of Goblin in their prime. (Check out Massimo Morante’s guitar on “Roller”—it looks like a doubleneck Gibson, just like Jimmy Page used to play.)
Three things conspired against Goblin ever getting the recognition they deserved—they were Italian, their output was almost entirely instrumental, and they were associated with horror movies. Meritless reservations, obviously, but three strikes against popular opinion and you’re out. Add to that the slight onus of being associated with prog rock, and they really didn’t stand a chance.
Personally, I’ve never viewed Goblin as prog. It’s just a convenient label, owing to a jazzy, propulsive sound that often defied categorization. And their tunes were always sharp and fairly short. Not for them the meandering rock symphonies about fairy kingdoms, lunar colonies, and tanks shaped like armadillos. Crucially, they weren’t show-offs either, which left room for every instrument to breathe. Churchy organ, tight drum fills, spiky guitar licks, and a groovy bass guaranteed a distinctive, symbiotic sound. Be lazy and compare them all you want to their contemporaries, like Yes and Genesis. By 1975, when Goblin came into their own, they sounded like no other band.
Addendum: The classic Goblin line-up has worked together only once since 1978—for Argento’s Sleepless (2001), in case you were wondering. But various constellations of the band continue to collaborate. Will the “Founding Fathers” ever reconcile their differences and team up for more insidiously inventive music? Or at least one last hurrah? Im tenere le dita incrociate!