The name Ghost Bath refers to the act of committing suicide by being submerged in a tub of water, and given the music this band has brought forth on their previous EP and full length releases, it’s an appropriate one. Ghost Bath, hailing from the state of North Dakota, play an interesting brand of depressing black metal, chock full of rough, howling vocalizations accompanied by razor sharp instrumental passages that send the listener on a trip through the throes of a depressive mind. The forthcoming album, ‘Starmourner’ releases April 21st, 2017, via Nuclear Blast, finds Ghost Bath stretching their wings, much like the angelic theme that threads the album, and exploring old and new territory alike.
Created in 2013, founding member Nameless wrote and recorded a self titled EP all on his own, which was released in China and Russia. The Chinese label, Pest Productions, released his first full length offer of distressing bleakness, ‘Funeral’, in early 2014, and the critically acclaimed ‘Moonlover’ popped up later that same year. Ever the workhorse, ‘Moonlover’ was written and recorded by Nameless in just three days time, and is in depth exploration of the sorrow, the woe, and tragic sides that blanket life. ‘Starmourner’ continues the exploration of such themes, but this album sees the artist widening his scope to incorporate more traits indicative of the flipside of life: joy, the cosmos, and paradise. This second chapter in the trilogy is easily the most ambitious undertaking of the two so far. Thematically, the songs explore Jewish and Biblical angels, and each track is accompanied by a painting and a parable to read alongside; this approach allows the listener to become fully immersed in what is a dramatically beautiful experience.
The album contains twelve tracks, with a running time of around 72 minutes, and when listened as an album, it most definitely succeeds in it’s goal of showcasing the dichotomous relationship between grief and beauty, balancing harrowing vocalizations with gorgeous instrumental arrangements throughout. Both light and dark are utilized to great strength here, presenting with both darkly morose tones and almost angelic passages, often within the same song. Fitting, really, since life is often the same way. ‘Seraphic’ is an excellent example, and one of the strongest overall individual tracks. Opening with single note strumming, a layered sound begins as two different guitars compete for your attention. They complement each other, invite you into the fold, as the drums kick in to push the tempo and overall feel of the song to a higher level. There is a definite sensation as Nameless begins his vocals that all is not what it seems. His voice is harrowingly beautiful as it conveys the state of his emotions, and the great contrast it presents with the uplifting nature of the music is a hallmark of the entire album. ‘Seraphic’ becomes truly mesmerizing in passages, and it’s highly recommended to be experienced through a good set of headphones. ‘Etheral’ is another stand out and aptly named track on this album. A rolling drum beat starts the song and with the guitar work, feels genuinely enlightening with a tremolo playing style featured throughout. At around the 2:00 minute mark, the mood of the song changes dramatically, a recurring theme that flows through all of the songs. ‘Etheral’ features some of the best guitar work of the entire album, and it expertly works with the percussion to establish mood. That big bass is timed perfectly within the song and at times pulses like a human heart. Ghost Bath are expanding their comfort zone in a gorgeous way and it shines in this composition, where feelings of optimism and transformation abound and are put against some deeply dark undertones. ‘Celestial’ definitely contains the biggest surprise of all, as it prominently slips into what can be described as a trip hop beat, a curious and interesting addition to the musical repertoire of the band. Soaring fretwork is peppered from start to finish, as the background becomes shrouded in the morose, leaving the listener to drown in moody beat sadness.
It’s truly difficult to pick out a favorite, as there are several that shine like the heavens and hell the band is intent on exploring. Easily, though, the strongest of all the songs are tracks #8 and #9, ‘Thrones’ and ‘Elysian’, respectively. ‘Thrones’ utilizes a call and response approach amongst the lead and rhythm guitar until the final note of the exchange is held in place as the bass comes barreling in, announcing with authority to the world that the thrones in question are about to be descended upon. Skin work here is skillfully on point here and could easily be the best drum work of the entire album in terms of variety, fit, and fill. The word ‘Elysian’ means blissful and delightful and it fits the song like a glove. A forceful and strong opening becomes almost symphonic in presenting the musical arrangement as some breakdown drums roll into a more melodic passage, yet ‘Elysian’ manages to lose not one ounce of it’s intensity. The chords were crafted in a very inspirative manner as Nameless shrieks his way through his experimental journey. As it winds down, a soft, finger picked six string adds twinkling effect, putting you in mind of gazing at the night sky, bloated and full of stars. “Starmourner“ is an excellent closing chapter to the trilogy of albums crafted by Ghost Bath. Sometimes when artists experiment with different sounds or focus, the end result is unfulfilling and occasionally confusing or disorienting. Such is not the case here. Pushing the boundaries of their typical sound, the band presents a new side of the human experience, the central running them of their output so far. The entire spectrum of our emotional existence is presented in a way that balances the positive and negative with skilled aplomb. “Starmourner” is set to be released April 21st, and until then, their prior two full lengths and an EP are available on to sate your thirst for daunting and bleak depressive black metal.
Follow Ghost Bath on Facebook here.
Pre-Order ‘Starmourner’ on blue vinyl here.
The first single released from the album ‘Thrones’ now streaming below.
Discover their previous effort, ‘Funeral’, below: