Deep in the forest at the edge of the clearing, near the overgrown ruins of the Toad King’s ancestral palace, a letter lies on the ground, splashed with blood and caked in mud. It is written by a goblin subject of the Toad King. An unassuming, unworthy, simple worker of the domain. It reads:
Worship him. I wrote to you once before, when things were peaceful, and the Toad King led us with his wisdom and placid grace. We worship him, and he consumes the best of us. To be tribute is the greatest honor. To enter the Royal Bong with a chosen group of the Worthy and sublimate your soul into his holy consciousness is to have the most noble purpose. In a way, the Worthy become the King and guide us all. Only the craftiest, the boldest, the grimiest and most gruesome goblins are even considered. I am no such goblin, but I take pride in my kingdom and the traditions that bring glory to us all. Worship him.
But I write to you now out of fear. The one I warned you about, a worm-tongued shaman, they whispered into his ear. They poisoned him. Yet we must worship him. I saw the King sitting in his fog, in the earliest dank dawn, absorbing the spirits of the Worthy. In the haze of his rituals, he did not realize the destructive path he was unwittingly drawn to.
I have seen the rites from the shadows; I have watched young goblin pages start the ceremony with the tap of the Holy Flame. I have seen as rancid smoke sputters and hisses from Worthy skin. The thick smoke sags over the ornate bowl, and from the throne the Toad King draws deeply through the mouthpiece of his hose.
But I have also watched as the shaman, their eyes darting about nervously, speaking the murderous words into his brain. They did not see me, but I knew they were corrupting our King.
It was horrible. Horrible. The Toad King took his Frog Legion and marched on his own loyal goblins. Only the shaman knows what the King saw as he and his elite unit slew the defenseless. Still we worship him. Goblin soldiers tried to fight back, but their hearts broke at the thought of this civil war. The Legion worship him too, but they were reluctant in their support of the King’s mad commands. “Let Them ROT!” he screamed over the crumpled bodies of his betrayed supporters. No dignified burial nor honorable toke into blessed royal oblivion; the Worthy and unworthy lie disgraced together.
The surviving Frog Legion now stands at ease around the King, surveying the surrounding forest despite the threats that have come from within. Even the birds sing mournfully. I do not know what will happen to our ruler or our kingdom. When the fighting stopped, he seemed to awaken from that evil trance, but he now sits morosely in his throne. Worship him. The shaman is nowhere to be found, and I fear that his plans are not complete.
I hope this letter reaches you, and that I will be able to write to you a third time with better news. Worship him.
We began our trilogy in 2018 with Toad King, which introduced the eponymous ruler and his rather unusual smoking material. The saga continues in 2020 with A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze. Each album runs more like an EP with three songs each, all between six and a half and ten minutes long. One hopes we will see three more tracks conclude the tale in 2022.
England’s Goblinsmoker plies a trade with riffs as fat and bottom-heavy as their logo. The drums hammer and plod, keeping the tempo nice and slow for the majority of the album. Vocals rasp like a burning goblin, giving a slightly blackened flavor to the band’s archetypal stoner doom. As with anything in this style, tone is king. Goblinsmoker’s deep, fuzzed-out grooves nail it, and the production keeps those warm riffs at the forefront of the sound.
“Smoked in Darkness” begins with a melancholy bass riff, ringing through the fog and trees of the Toad King’s realm before the whole band crashes in. At 6:35, the tempo lurches forward, only to slow to a crawl as the song ends. “Let Them Rot” features menacing howls and punishingly slow riffs for almost nine minutes, but in the final minute Goblinsmoker blasts into (stoner) speed metal territory.
The album closes with more down-trodden riffs and demonic shrieks as “The Forest Mourns.” Can the Toad King shake the influence of the goblin shaman? Will his highness toke in peace and rule with clarity and wisdom once more? Perhaps you, dear reader, should worship him out of hope. Hope for the future of the kingdom, and hope that Goblinsmoker will continue to grace us with their beautifully ugly heavy grooves.