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Album Review: Moonlover by Ghost Bath

American black metal band Ghost Bath have released their second album Moonlover. As a point of reference this isn’t your standard black metal, this is more in line with current trend of mixing black metal with post rock, see Deafheaven’s brand of blackgaze. As another point of reference, this is their first album post the revelation that the band aren’t actually from Chongqing, China as they originally claimed (they’re actually from Minot, North Dakota).

There’s a lot of grandiose to Ghost Bath’s sound, it’s big, expansive and ambitious; however it doesn’t get any more pretentious than frontman Dennis Mikula’s assessment of why they didn’t correct the media about being from China, “We refused to correct people because we do not wish to put actual faces onto our music. It is our wish as a band to connect to all human beings.” For some that alone would be enough to give the band a wide berth, not to mention their quite frankly ridiculous name.

If you’re prepared to leave all that to one side you’ll find Moonlover to be a wonderful album. There’s an equal mix of abrasive and challenging sounds yet you’ll find yourself emotionally invested with the fragile beauty coming to the fore. Second track ‘Golden Number’ is a prime example of how expertly the band blends the harshness of black metal with the expansiveness and granular beauty of post rock. The quieter moments compliment the abrasiveness perfectly with the piano outro pulling on your heartstrings with immense force.

‘Happyhouse’ is a superb track. Mikula’s screech seems to come from somewhere so deep and primal that it couldn’t be any more emotionally wrought. Combine this with the blast beats and tremolo picked guitars and you’ve got a song of real quality. Clocking in at over eight and a half minutes it is ambitious and sprawling without a sense of being drawn out. The sombre quietness and relative shortness of ‘Beneath the Shade Tree’ gives it the feeling of an interlude but it’s far more than that. There’s a fragile beauty to the track, which is made more powerful by being instrumental.

Many people will be quick to point to the similarities to Deafheaven. Sure they may be genre mates but Deafheaven will always be a point of reference as they somewhat created the sound; and whisper this, Ghost Bath add their own identity to the sound, creating something more affecting and lasting. ‘The Silver Flower, Pt. 1’ carries on the same feeling from ‘Beneath the Shade Tree’ and somehow manages to crank up the brittle splendour tenfold. It segues into its sister track ‘The Silver Flower, Pt. 2’ for the template to be butchered with scything guitars and the return of Mikula’s screech. It is every bit as compelling and powerful. ‘Death and the Maiden’ goes for a more obvious route with crushing guitars and blast beats before ‘Ascension’ plays the part of the perfect album closer. Full of grandiose riffs and sprawling dynamics with Mikula’s screech lurking just below the surface and plenty of crushing guitars and blast beats interspersed throughout make this ideal finisher.

With Moonlover Ghost Bath take the black metal / post rock, blackgaze template and add their own unique textures and sounds. If you’re prepared to leave preconceptions to the side then you’ll find one of 2016’s best and most essential albums.

AD Rating 8.75/10

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Alt Dialogue’s Top 100 Albums of 2016: Part 2, 50 – 1 – Alt Dialogue
  2. Album Review: Starmourner by Ghost Bath – Alt Dialogue

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