First coming to attention in the early 1970's, the Italian group Goblin managed to succeed in two different realms of the music world, both as a popular rock group and as a composing team for various horror films (particularly those of Dario Argento). Like Ennio Morricone, who will be forever remembered as a composer of western scores (although his works have covered all categories of film), Goblin will be fondly recalled foremost for their contributions to the world of splatter films. Since the group has been disbanded, their presence is even more sorely missed, although they are still around working as individuals.

To be certain, Goblin was unique, offering a strange assortment of chimes, groans, unharmonious, garbled sounds and high-pitched wails with tremulous, blaring, heavy metal music. While the two seemed uncompatible together, the arrangement worked, not just once, but repeatedly. Looking like throwbacks to Woodstock, the longhaired hippies known collectively as Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli, and Agostino Marangolo completely captivated Europe, then with the film Deep Red, the world. Marangolo was the drummer and percussion expert; Morante the guitar; Simonetti the organ, piano, and string instruments; and Pignatelli the precision instruments. Composition was a team effort.

Even though Goblin itself is no more, many of their albums may still be found in the soundtrack or import sections of large record shops. Most of their films are also available on video; so those of you unfamiliar with their weird brand of music are still able to check them out with relative ease. They are well worth the listening pleasure (picture the strange scores of Ennio Morricone or John Carpenter with a Pink Floyd rock beat and you get some initial idea of what they are like). For the uninformed, a list of their best efforts in the horror line follows.

DEEP RED - A release made by Dario Argento prior to his THREE MOTHERS series, this psycho story involved David Hemmings trying to track down a hatchet-swinging killer (revealed to be an old woman at the end, who aptly gets beheaded herself). Argento, who had made a habit of using Ennio Morricone to score the films he'd done earlier, used Goblin this time around. From the onset, when the opening credits came on amid a blood red background, people were fascinated. The strange, instrumental hard rock seemed inappropriate at first; but it blended well with the mood of the film as the story progressed, rising and falling with the action. The group proved their variety; for along with their ear-splitting rock scores, they also played a childish lullaby type of melody, enhanced by voices of choirboys and chimes. Whenever "flashback" sequences were shown, this irritating "jump rope" music would be heard, grating on your nerves, but creating unbelievable tension.

SUSPIRIA - With the positive effect Goblin had upon DEEP RED, Argento reused the boys for SUSPIRIA, the first of his MOTHERS myths, involving witches at a German dance academy. The opening song, heard throughout, consisted of weird chimes (few people noticed the melody to be a twisted version of the old children's church song, "Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so...") creating subliminal messages within the brains of the viewers and making them all the more aware of "something evil" in the dance hall, even before the killings and satanic rituals start. In this masterpiece, a hissing "devil voice" is also heard at points "singing" in time to the music with a wicked La-La-La-La-La-La-La. Added background voices, dubbed into the score (possibly a tactic copied from Ennio Morricone or suggested by Argento) included a repeatedly cry of "witch!" and the "devil voice" muttering barely audible blasphemies about Jesus Christ. The tone of this powerful main theme, one of Goblin's most popular creations, completely overshadowed all other lesser pieces of music in the film.

DAWN OF THE DEAD - The Dario Argento/George Romero slaugherfest about a group of humans making a last stand against the rest of the world, which has become a zombie-infested snake pit (ZOMBIE was the original title of the film in Europe), makes for plenty of gore, spills, and thrills. Goblin is right there again, only this time they get to show a wide variety of musical scopes and talents. The album is still circulating in some stores. The film score ranges from a slow, ambling march at the beginning and end to match, presumedly, the walk of the lumbering undead scattered throughout the movie. Other variations include a slow saxaphone melody during romantic moments; a lampoonish Keystone Kops type of melody for when a group of bikers are picking off zombies and even hitting some in the face with pies; and overall, only remote similarity to the pounding songs heard in previous credits. Certainly this would be the film in which Goblin showed the audience its wide variety of composing talents.

TENEBRAE - While Argento used Keith Emerson for INFERNO, he had Goblin back for TENEBRAE, a psycho-killer story involving a razor-slicing, woman-hating maniac at loose in Rome. Since the plot was somewhat similar to DEEP RED, so was the music. Loud, blaring rock scores at the beginning, end, and in-between sequences where the killer arrived on the scene; an annoying flashback theme, which (instead of the choirboy song from DEEP RED) offered an assortment of strange sounds, much like a worn out music box; and heavy reliance on keyboards made this a classic in European slasher films. The poetic, flowing music matched well with Argento's poetic, flowing spurts of blood. As in his other works, the Argento/Goblin connection was a marriage made in heaven.

PATRICK - in the United States the greatest controversy surrounding this film, which dealt with a comatose villain who possessed psychic powers, was not whether it was any good or not but exactly who composed the score. While the American version of the movie credited music to Brian May (as did a soundhrack album), a series of records came out in Italy, which were imported into the USA, carrying the same logo and film credits, except with Goblin listed as the composing artists. This mystery of duo composers took quite some time to answer, although die explanation was simple. Italian distributoes reportedly did not like the soundtrack accompanying the original film (keep in mind just how heavy the emphasis on film scoring is in Italy with the likes of Ennio Morricone, Francesco De Masi, Nino Rota, Nora Orlandi, Bruno Nicolai, and such employing more popularity than many actors or directors). Thus, Goblin was hired to rewrite the score and their adaption was used throughout Europe in places where Patrick played. Rather bland as compared to SUSPIRIA, DEEP RED, and so on, this was not one of their best musical scores.

BURIED ALIVE - An absolute shocker, combining a psychotic killer with a mother fixation and a liking for dead bodies, with bringing stiffs back to life via a shot (as would later be seen in RE-ANIMATOR), the film received little play in the USA until it came out in video form. The heavy metal, typical Goblin score blended well with the heavy duty violence of the film. The chimes, the hypnotic rhythm, the odd assortment of Morricone-type sounds all molded and shaped to cause the right effect at the right time. In all, the film score was better than the actual film.
While the aforementioned are the major horror films scored by this group, others exist which offer equally interesting musical highlights, but have far less impact on the fans of splatter. These include:

CREEPERS - A more recent chiller by Dario Argento, which featured Jennifer Connely, Donald Pleasence, and a host of killer bugs. Goblin only composed a portion of the music for this utilizing instrumental scores, heavy rock music and chimes as in SUSPIRIA or DEEP RED. Other bands and musicians involved with this flick include Simon Boswell, Motor Head, The Andi Sex Gang and Bill Wyman. As with BURIED ALIVE, the film soundtrack was better than the actual film.

STORIES TO KEEP YOU AWAKE - Only sparce information is available. Evidently, this was an Italian television program like "Night Gallery" or "The Dark Room," called "Sette Storie Per Non Dormire." The theme song they composed, aptly titled "Yell," was a big hit as a single and sold on 45's throughout Europe.

WAMPIR - By accounts, a vampire flick that may or may not have been released in America under a different title. Only one song from the film has been released in record form, "Roller," which has appeared on various Gobin albums. Regrettably, this correspondent has been unable to find other details. The title song is indeed chilling. It starts off with the DEEP RED/SUSPIRIA rock sound then stops and an organ solo is heard, like something out of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, before the song comes to a close with the rock melody resuming. Wild, to say the least, and unfortunately more details haven't cropped up about the film.

During Goblin's reign there were other film scores and monumental works not related to the horror category but, nonetheless, efffective. These scores include SQUADRA ANTIGANGSTERS, a crime drama which used disco beat music for most of the scenes where music was required and I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU NOT, a tear-jerker starring Maximilian Schell, Terrence Stamp, and a then-unknown Jacqueline Bisset.

In summing up, fans might be unaware of the Goblin logo (a demon in a crouching position playing on a violin) and what it means. This symbol, adorning their records and merchandise, came from an old painting titled The Devil and Tartini, based upon a European horror tale. Supposedly, the devil appeared one night, slouching over the bedposts of this man named Tartini, playing a violin. As the story has it, the devil wished this man to realize he could become a great composer and thus should take up music as an art. How to story ends is beyond me.

Whether or not the members of Goblin saw the devil at their bedside playing a guitar or set of chimes in like fashion is not known, but the greatness they achieved in the world of horror film, with or without Satan's help, goes without saying. It is only hopeful that one day they will band together again, particularly if Argento finally puts together the final part of his Three Mothers series, sending The Mother of Tears on a terror spree through Rome. If such ever transpires, than no one better than Goblin could conceivably give her music to create mayhem to as she goes about making life miserable for mankind.
Hopefully, Argento will take the hint!

- By Dale Pierce

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