Massimo Morante — the guitarist whose moody, funky playing helped define Italian prog-rock group Goblin’s eerie soundtracks for horror cinema classics such as Suspiria and Dawn of the Dead — has died at the age of 69. The group confirmed the news “with a heavy heart” in a Facebook post.
His daughter, Valerie paid respects to her father and announced the funeral would take place this weekend in Rome. “It is with indescribable pain, a pain that trumps words, that breaks the breath and hammer the heart, that I announce the death of my father, Massimo Morante,” she wrote on Facebook. “For anyone who would like to give him a last goodbye, the funeral will take place on Saturday 25th June at 10.30 at the Church of Artists in Piazza del Popolo (Rome).”
Goblin, who were originally known as Cherry Five, rose to prominence among fans of bloody giallo cinema in the mid Seventies after contributing music to filmmaker Dario Argento’s 1975 picture Profondo Rosso. Their theme combined layers of scratchy folk instruments (Morante played mandolin and bass on various soundtracks in addition to guitar) with moaning voices, giving a more otherworldly feel to the film than the more traditional soundtracks of the day. They collaborated with Argento again a few years later for his witch epic, Suspiria, which showed off Morante’s funkier side amid Claudio Simonetti’s spindly keyboard parts.
John Carpenter told Rolling Stone that Goblin’s work on Suspiria inspired him for the score to his own Halloween. After Goblin aligned with Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero on his vampire film, 1978’s Martin, the soundtrack for Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (also 1978) gave Morante the opportunity to explore more of his funk side.
“What we did was start composing after watching the movie and after that, we played while watching it,” Simonetti explained in author Nicanor Loreti’s book Cult People. “But beyond that, there weren’t many things in common every time. … Obviously, it’s the director’s job to tell you what he wants to get out of you. But we never had any problems with anyone because once we knew what we wanted, everyone used to let us work the way we wanted.”
After Dawn of the Dead, Goblin’s membership started to fracture; the score to Argento’s Tenebre (1982) is credited to Morante, Simonetti, and Goblin bassist Fabio Pignatelli, the band’s three most consistent members on their classic recordings. In the early Eighties, Morante also put out two solo albums, Corpo a Corpo and Abbasso. In recent years, full Goblin reunions were rare. Morante and Pignatelli played in the band known as “Goblin,” while Simonetti led Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (aka Daemonia).
In 2000, the group reunited for the soundtrack for Dario Argento’s Non Ho Sleep, only to splinter again. Three years later, Morante realigned with Pignatelli, alongside Maurizio Guarini and Agostino Marangolo to drop BackToTheGoblin 2005. More than three decades after their last performance, Morante, Pignatelli, Guarini and Marangolo alongside keyboardist Aidan Zammit performed at a series of European festivals. The band took on several iterations following the tour. In 2013, the group embarked on its first North American tour, which included performing “Suspiria” live at the Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin.
The band continued to tour through 2014 and released the album, Four of a Kind, the following year. In 2018, the band marked the 40th anniversary of their soundtrack for The Dawn of the Living Dead and also released Fearless (37513 Zombie Ave.) that same year.