Music in the movies: Goblin

Glen looks back at the movie music work of the band Goblin, in particular the collaborations with Dario Argento...

Italian prog band Goblin’s back catalogue differs greatly when compared to many of their contemporaries, given the fact that much of their output was made up of movie scores which more often than not were for the films of Dario Argento.

The band started out under the name Cherry Five, performing British style prog, but when their debut album failed to impress, they were left to reassess their situation. Argento had heard enough promise in their debut to hire them and would go on to use them a number of times.

Below are what I consider to be the most notable scores in Goblin’s back catalogue:

Profondo Rosso (Deep Red)

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The score for Argento’s Profondo Rosso marked a hugely impressive debut for Goblin, Not only did it compliment the film brilliantly, but the album would go on to be a chart topping hit in Italy and earn the band a cult reputation throughout the world. It’s a genre defying piece of work that blurs jazz, prog and metal with startling results.

Leitmotifs are used, with there being distinct differences between the variations on the main theme with use of acoustic guitars and gentle keys in quieter moments and pounding organs and synthesisers in some of the more intense scenes.

It’s an incredible piece of work and easy to see why it enjoyed such success and why the band would go on to become Argento’s go-to source for film scores.

Perché Si Uccidono (Percy Is Killed)

This score was something of a rarity in Goblin’s back catalogue due to the fact that the members didn’t perform the piece under the name of Goblin, but instead used the name Il Reale Impero Britannico.

Another reason why many perhaps didn’t associate this score with the band could have been that the subject matter of the film and tone of the score weren’t those typical of the band’s previous output.  This is more soft rock than prog rock and, as such, is much more poppy in tone than their sinister work up to that point.  It’s not as consistent as much of their output, but still is a score with plenty of highlights.

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This is, without doubt, the finest showcase of Goblin’s talents. It’s a deeply unsettling and often disorientating collection of material that goes out to create a wall of sound that uses various instruments to sound like tortured screams. It’s a remarkable experience listening to this without the benefit of the film, but it’s at its best when it accompanies the imagery Argento created for his 1977 masterpiece that, for me, represents his finest work.

The film tells the story of a girl who joins a dance academy and finds that is run by a coven of witches. The score is only part of the unsettling effect of the film. For years some of the dialogue seemed odd,  given the age of the characters on screen, but I recently found out that the material was originally intended for a much younger cast but when the decision was made to cast older actors they left the script unchanged.

I would regard this score as one of the finest showcases for the effective build of suspense. At times the level of suspense reached here is almost unbearable.


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Zombi is the title that was adopted for the European release of George A Romero’s classic Dawn Of The Dead. For the second feature in his original zombie trilogy, Romero enlisted Dario Argento to his production team, which lead to Goblin creating a full score for the film. Whereas the US and UK release of Dawn Of The Dead only utilised sections of this score alongside sourced material, Zombi boasted Goblin’s full score in all its glory.

As you would expect from the source, there are some creepy and menacing moods created, most evident in the opening track, with a relentless heartbeat like backing synthesisers sounding like they’re communicating in a foreign language. It’s a hugely effective opening piece that adds an air of uncertainty to set up the film.

For all its creepy menace, the score also boasts some excellent heavier numbers that accompany the more action-packed aspects of the film. Prime examples of these are Saratozom and La Caccia.

I wouldn’t say that this matches much of their soundtrack output, but it’s an accomplished piece of work that makes an interesting comparison to the music that accompanies the English language version.

Tenebrae  (Unsane)

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Again, this isn’t widely regarded as an official Goblin release. The band split prior to the film being made, but Argento still wanted them to score his movie. He was able to convince three members of the band back to provide the score in Simonetti, Morante and Pignatelli.

The score sees them retain the elements of darkness and tension that typified their previous output, but also saw the band adopt elements of 80s pop music, giving the score a feel of a dance album, which goes some way to explaining the fact that French duo Justice sampled the main theme for two songs.

Phenomena (Creepers)

This score saw Goblin collaborate with composer Simon Boswell for some of his earliest work. Their contributions were limited, due to the fact that much of the soundtrack was made up from sourced material from the likes of Iron Maiden and Motorhead.

It’s worth checking out for the track Jennifer and the variations on the main theme, but this is far from the best of their work both in terms of quality of material and supporting what’s on screen.

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Non Ho Sonno (Sleepless)

This eagerly anticipated reunion between Goblin and Argento hints at themes explored in their earlier collaborations, but lacks the sense of urgency and inventiveness that made their scores so enjoyable. In fact, this is all a bit predictable by their standards. That’s not to say that it doesn’t serve the material well, because it really does. It just lacks the standalone appeal that much of their earlier work had.

It’s not without its highlights, though, as it contains an excellent main theme and starts off quite strong, but does tail off towards the end of the film, with much of the second half of the soundtrack being almost unlistenable.