Under most normal circumstances I wouldn’t have given Welcome to Bonkers a chance. Nothing about the idea of goblin-centric heavy metal, featured a front/hype man dressed up in full goblin-garb, appeals to me. But I gave their video for “Dressed as Goblins” a chance when I heard that it was directed by Brendan Small (of Home Movies and Metalocalypse fame). The video, which someone on the comment page I was reading aptly described as “The Royal Tenenbaums, but with Goblins”, is bizarre beyond description and deserves several watches. It was also intriguing enough that I decided to give the band’s fourth full-length album a chance.
Welcome to Bonkers lives up to its title and then some, delivering furious, fast-paced, and authentically evil melodic death metal all with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Leaving aside all the gimmicks (a goblin hype man, goblin-centric lyrics, lyrics written by and for people in the throes of a bad acid trip), Welcome to Bonkers manages to be an impressive melo-death album, favorably comparable to The Crown’s Iron Crown (my favorite melodic death metal album of this year) and The Black Dahlia Murder’s Nightbringers, possibly the best melodic death metal album ever. Songs like “Row”, “Dressed as Goblins”, and “The Skin Thief” are all legitimately fantastic metal tracks, full of killer riffs and fantastic musicianship, all tied together with some wonderfully evil vocals. If the band woke up tomorrow and decided they’d had enough of Goblins (not likely, if the album closer “Goblins” is to be believed), they’d likely be able to make a successful go of it on talent and skill alone.
But surprisingly enough, the band’s shtick works. There was no more fitting choice to direct the video for “Dressed as Goblins” than Small, as the parallels between the band and Metalocalypse’s Dethklok are striking. While they both produce fantastic metal in a vacuum, the selling point to both is that they’re playing insanely brutal death metal while singing about the most absurd subjects imaginable. Dethklok’s most famous tracks involved killing mermaids and summoning a giant murderous troll, so why can’t Nekrogoblikon sing about goblins and dragons and a magic spider? Just because it’s violent and angry and metal through-and-through doesn’t mean it can’t be hilarious. And hilarious it is, with songs like “Dragons”, “Thanks for Nothing, Moon”, and the aforementioned “The Magic Spider” packing laughs from beginning to end, all while staying metal as fuck.
While there might be a glass ceiling to how good a record can be once they adopt as many gimmicks as Nekrogoblikon do, Welcome to Bonkers is right up against it and threatening to break through. The absurdity and laughs make the record a great listen, but the quality of the metal is high enough to warrant multiple spins. Goblincore shouldn’t work by any stretch of the imagination, but Nekrogoblikon have found the sweet spot between funny and evil that allows it to thrive.
“Row”, “Dressed as Goblins”, “The Skin Thief”