My first experience of Ghost Bath arose at the 2016 Bloodstock Open Air festival. They were the first band on the main stage at 11.30am Sunday morning and as I was reviewing and dashing between stages the plan was to watch the first half of their set and the second half of another band elsewhere but I was so mesmerized by their delivery that I made my way to the front to take it all in. Frontman Dennis Mikula does not use lyrics, instead he howls and screams over a bleak, deathly black metal soundscape so I knew what to expect when it came to their latest studio album Starmourner.
Released via Nuclear Blast, its twelve tracks clock in at over the hour mark that provide a challenging listen. Each song is named after a different type of angel with the band describing it as “Atmospheric black metal focused on depression and human emotion”. Opener ‘Astral’ is a calm before the storm gentle piano piece that raised the hairs on the back of my neck and may just be the most beautiful instrumental I have ever heard as it fades out with Dennis’ torturous screams. The mayhem begins with ‘Seraphic’ as piercing guitar lines are backed by a devastating rhythm battery that morph into a Godflesh like wall of sound. Dennis’ howls add to the intensity as superhuman drum work threatens to shift the Earth off its axis.
‘Ambrosial’ is a tour de force of armageddon like proportions driven by a drum kit that must have been forged with the same metal as Thor’s hammer. Hellish wails come to the fore in a laid back mid section as a hypnotic grind segues to a quaint guitar outro. ‘Ethereal’ is a scintillating rush of off kilter drums and guitar lines for the first half as the drums heavy up with Dennis adding chilling roars. The guitars speed up and mesh towards a halt as everything gives way to a lengthy, ambient finish. ‘Celestial’ is a yin and yang combination of almost joyous guitar riffs that are offset by Dennis’ anguish as the mood switches to a lone piano outro backed by almost hip hop style drumming.
‘Angelic’ is a wistful twin guitar piece and time seemed to stand still whilst listening to it. ‘Luminescence’ fires up a storm of melodic death metal driven by calf muscle straining drumming. A roar to a shriek vocal gives way to a serene midsection as the madness returns with bass guitar throbs hitting like a wrecking ball. The speaker to speaker raging guitar intro to ‘Thrones’ leads to aural devastation as the band fire on all cylinders. A slight foot off the gas pedal midway allows Dennis’ emotions to pitch higher in the mix as another bass dominated breakdown leads to a piano piece outro that sounds like Victorian fairground music. ‘Elysian’ is a five minute barrage of anger at Richter scale worrying levels offset by deft guitar lines and lung busting vocals.
Monstrous drum and bass assaults give ‘Cherubim’ the power to crush as the guitars weave in and out with an exultant air. ‘Principalities’ is not the fastest track but is by far the heaviest. A light in the black guitar intro is destroyed by a discordant whine as Godzilla like drum stomps lay waste to all that stands before them. Guitars come to the fore backed as rib rattling bass lines hit hard. The album closes as it began with ‘Ode’, another elegant piano piece played by Dennis.
Starmourner is the second album of a trilogy that follows Moonlover and precedes Inferno. Ghost Bath are undertaking a lengthy 2017 tour beginning in Europe on May 7th and culminating in the USA in Baltimore on September 23rd. Go and see them and immerse yourself in a ghost bath!
Starmourner album track listing :-