Ghost Bath play post-black metal that combines the depressive and atmospheric styles. Okay, but what does this mean in practice?
Ghost Bath are an unusual band. This is almost always a good thing, as it means that the band in question aren’t a carbon copy of someone else. However, it does usually mean that they are an acquired taste for a lot of people. Again, not always a bad thing.
Certain aspects of Ghost Bath’s sound are quite over-the-top, taken to the extreme. This primarily manifests in the band’s vocals and the melodic leads in the songs. On Starmourner the band also put a greater emphasis on the post-black metal aspects in their sound. Their last album – Moonlover – had these elements for sure, but on Starmourner they come to the fore even more.
The tracks are highly melodic and quite upbeat in nature. Whereas on their previous release, although these parts were still present they were drenched in misery and sorrow. On Starmourner it’s the other way around; dark emotions and negativity are still aspects of these songs, but the joyful nature of the guitars has been heightened.
Apparently the band set out to explore the concepts of joy and ecstasy in the music this time around – well, in this I feel they have been wildly successful. The music on Starmourner is recognisable as black metal, but a version of it that has been fed through largely positive emotions rather than largely negative ones. In some ways it shouldn’t work, but for me it does.
There’s also a greater feeling of stargazing, cosmic-travelling atmospheric black metal on the album too. Celestial melodies and transcendent moods are well-represented across the material, and I particularly enjoy it when the band take the time to develop this side of a song more. Mixed with the rest of the music it once more shows their post-blackened side as they start treading into shoegaze territories.
The depressive edge is less apparent on Starmourner, for obvious reasons when you consider the above. However, the main influence of this style that’s still going strong is in the vocals. The singer’s screams have remained true to depressive black metal’s over-the-top emotional displays; raw, ragged screams, dripping with pained emotion and occasionally descending into wails and cries. As I’m not a huge fan of depressive-styled vocals this has always been the most contentious part of Ghost Bath for me, but I have to say that for the majority of the time the singer’s anguished screams are just the right side of enjoyable.
Starmourner is a bold album. Unafraid to be true to itself and nothing else, the band have written an album full of passion and emotion, one which embraces a different path through black metal’s well-worn landscape. In my view Ghost Bath are simply going from strength to strength, and Starmourner is just as oddly addictive as Moonlover was.
I can’t stop listening to this. I can’t stop enjoying this.
FAVOURITE TRACK: Ambrosial. Probably a perfect distillation of what makes Ghost Bath so compelling all in one song.