Calgary’s Chron Goblin take control with fourth album, Here Before

Devin ‘Darty’ Purdy, Richard Hepp, Josh Sandulak and Brett Whittingham in Chron Goblin. Courtesy, Mario Montes. Calgary

Encroaching maturity is always a mixed blessing when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll bands, but perhaps particularly so for those lumped into the “stoner rock” category.

Luckily, four-piece Calgary veterans Chron Goblin have never really embraced that sub-genre. As with most sub-genres, they have found it limiting in their decade as a band. It was something to break out of, not embrace.

“We’ve never called ourselves stoner rock, but we get that tag attached to us quite a bit,” says guitarist Devin (Darty) Purdy. “We’ve always just thought of ourselves as a rock band and we never really wanted to write music that further cemented us into that pigeonholed genre. I think this new album really showcases that. Some of the tracks have a lot more atmospheric elements to it. We were able to experiment.”

The resulting album, Here Before, is Chron Goblin’s fourth full-length and fifth release. It’s a fairly formidable body of work, even for a band that has been braving the indie trenches of Calgary’s music scene for the past 10 years. The 10-year anniversary proved to be a significant milestone for the band, which has maintained the same lineup of Purdy, bassist Richard Hepp, vocalist Josh Sandulak and drummer Brett Whittingham since forming as university students in 2008.

“Now we are at a completely different life stage,” Purdy says. “So we think it’s a bit more of a mature and refined kind of sound. We really wanted to have a very organic-sounding album where we focused on capturing the natural sounds in the input stage rather than doing digital enhancement and effects in the output stage. I think there was a conscious effort of making sure the songs are concise, that the album flows, that it has a bit of a more refined sound than our previous albums.”

Not that Chron Goblin completely reinvent the wheel this time around. The band still namechecks Red Fang, Kyuss and even Black Sabbath as stylistic reference points. The news release still refers to them as “fuzz lords,” and Chron Goblin maintains a knack for furious riffing on pulse-quickening, stage-ready ragers such as Oblivion or with the swinging, time-signature trickery of Giving in to Fun or charging War. But there is also room for more enhanced melody on tunes such as Giant and the epic and anguished Slipping Under.

Some of the refinement comes courtesy of producer Josh Rob Gwilliam, who was at the helm for Here Before at Calgary’s OCL Studios. It was the first time Chron Goblin worked this closely with an outside producer, says Purdy.

The album was recorded in the summer of 2018 and found the band decamping to the OCL, which is the only residential recording studio in Western Canada.

“We stayed out there for nine days,” Purdy says. “You eat meals together, swim in the pool together and really remove yourself from everyday life and focused on making the best album that we could.”

For this release, Chron Goblin also formed its own record label. Here Before is out on the band’s Grand Hand Records, as is Loser Delusions, the latest from tour mates Black Mastiff of Edmonton. The two bands hold a dual CD release launch on Oct. 11 at the Palomino Smokehouse in Calgary. Releasing music on their own terms is another sign of maturity, a way to keep control of their career.

“Our last album we released on a label out of the States,” Purdy says. “It was our first time working with a bigger label. There were some benefits to it but a considerable amount of negatives that maybe we didn’t foresee coming into it. When you start working with a label, essentially you have to have that balance of what are you willing to give up in order to gain. At the end of the day, I think a lot of things we were willing to give up in order to gain we thought we could do just as good a job ourselves.

“We’ve been in the music scene for 15 years, including past projects before Chron Goblin, and same with Black Mastiff. So there’s a fair amount of in-house knowledge. We just wanted to take all that experience and keep complete creative control about how the album is going to be released, the esthetics, how we’re going to promote it. Just take matters into our own hands.”

Chron Goblin and Black Mastiff play the Palomino Smokehouse on Oct. 11.