Tag Archives: Ghost Bath

The Good Bits: April 2017

Woo, boy. April was packed, particularly on the musical front.

Music:

Ghost Bath, Starmourner(Nuclear Blast)

ghost bath

You may recall that on my Top 10 Albums of 2015 Redux post I reiterated how much I loved Ghost Bath’s sophomore full length Moonlover. It’s not only my favorite album from that year, but it’s become one of my favorite albums of all time. Since then the band has had a growth spurt in popularity that includes touring the world and re-releasing Moonlover on a major label. Now the band’s follow-up Starmourner has to contend with the success of its much loved predecessor. Does it stack up? Short answer: Yes.

Ghost Bath’s music typically revolves around depressive melancholic themes, and while Starmourner still retains some of those themes, the over concept and sound of the album feels a bit…lighter? It’s focused more on astral themes rather than straight up misery and lots of the songs are in major key. That’s not to say that the album isn’t heavy; “Ambrosial” and “Thrones” are probably the two heaviest songs on the album featuring the familiar blackgaze riffage and soundscapes the band is known for. In fact, this is probably the most riff focused the band has sounded yet, which I’m a bit mixed on. Some riffs on songs like “Thrones” are driving and vicious before diving into broad melodic passages, but others “Luminescence” didn’t keep me quite as captivated.

This doesn’t prevent the album from still being great, however. In fact, I applaud the band for writing an album that sounds different from their first two while still retaining their signature sound. Starmourner may also be a good place to start for newcomers or for people who’ve tried to listen to Ghost Bath but couldn’t get past the shrieking vocals (which I felt took more of a backseat on this album). As far as follow-ups to masterpieces go, Ghost Bath have done an admirable job of both continuing and evolving their sound on their third album, seamlessly weaving heavy riffs and emotional textures together for another stellar record.

 

He Is Legend, few (Spinefarm)

he is legend

I’m a latecomer to He Is Legend. I haven’t really listened to their earlier material and came on board sometime after the band reunited and produced 2014’s Heavy Fruit, an album I enjoyed for a few spins and then didn’t really think about it again until I saw that the band had put out a new album. So I shrugged and threw on few for a listen and came away having a pretty good time. The album sounds like a deceptively straightforward hard rock album, which it is in some ways, but the well-crafted songs add a layer of depth your average active rock radio single doesn’t have. Meaty riffs paired with standout vocals from Schuylar Croom create catchy numbers like “Air Raid”, but the band takes a detour here and there like on the goofy, blusey fun of “Fritz the Dog”. This is probably the most accessible album I’ve listened to in a while that isn’t instrumental.

 

Persefone, Aathma (ViciSolum)

persefone

I slept on this one for a bit. It popped up on my radar right before its initial release (February) and I didn’t get around to it until earlier in April. But woo boy am I glad I finally checked it out. I’ve said before that some newer prog metal albums get a bit too technical and end up boring me as a result. That’s not the case with Persefone and their fifth album Aathma, which is the finest prog metal album I’ve heard so far this year. From the get-go you know that Persefone are virtuosic players, but they thankfully put composition before everything else, choosing to use their chops as a garnish rather than the main course. The album moves seamlessly from one track to the next with graceful piano interludes before spiraling into death metal madness.

It’s hard not to think of prog metal legends like Dream Theater and Cynic when listening to this album, but I’m not saying that Persefone are derivative by any means. Rather, they evoke the same feelings I have for those aforementioned bands and their great musical works. They stack up to those bands and stand a head above other bands that are just trying too hard to sound deep and complex. I’ll definitely have to check out more of Persefone’s earlier material once I’m done wearing out Aathma.

 

Astralia, Solstice (Aloud Music)

astralia

Last summer I discovered Astralia and gave them a write up, heralding them as my musical savior when it comes to instrumental post rock that helps me focus when writing. That album, Atlas, was two years old at the time, and I wondered if they’d put out anything new in the near future. And they did. Solstice is the band’s third release and it’s just as good as its predecessors. The songs are a bit longer this time around typically ranging from 8 1/2 to 9 minutes, but you’ll be so enraptured by the band’s soothing and emotional soundscapes that the album will be over before you know it. The opener “Exhale” is an excellent summation of all that you would expect from Astralia, so if you didn’t check them out the last time I wrote about them, now is as good a time as any.

 

Film:

Split

split

If you’ve been following me for the past few months, you’ll know I haven’t watched many M. Night Shyamalan films and that I only just watched The Sixth Sense last October. Admittedly, part of this has to do with Shyamalan’s preceding reputation for dumb plots built around hokey twists. And yet, Split makes for an effective thriller with one hell of a performance by James McAvoy and an equally impressive lead with Anya Taylor-Joy (who also starred in The Witch).

While the hook of having a villain with Dissociative Identity Disorder might be considered dumb or even offensive to some, I thought the film handled it more intelligently than expected. Kevin’s (McAvoy) psychologist stresses that he’s far beyond a textbook case of DID, viewing him as the key to unlocking the potential in all humans. If anything, despite doing some pretty terrible and creepy things, Kevin is almost made out to be more of a supervillain or antihero or at least a mutant (wink wink, nudge nudge). I don’t claim to be an expert on metal disability, let alone DID, but as far as stigmatization goes, Split isn’t the worst I’ve seen. If you go in understanding that this depiction of metal illness is more or less science fiction, then you’re fine. I won’t say much more, though the Internet has probably spoiled things for you by now, but if you’ve been on the fence about this one, I’d say go for it.

 

Books:

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel_Book_Cover

When I last wrote about Sabriel in my “Currently Reading” blurb, I mentioned that, at halfway through the book, I felt I’d only scratched the surface of the world of The Old Kingdom. After finishing the book, I still feel that way, but not in a negative sense. In fact, one of my favorite things about Sabriel is that I felt like there’s a whole world to explore with many things happening in it, but my experience was contained to one story that wasn’t interested in big info dumps or tedious world building. Nix simply introduces Sabriel and you follow her on a journey both mysterious and magical, and yet it sometimes reads like magical realism rather than straight-up fantasy. It’s refreshing and, although it’s the first in a trilogy, it tells a satisfying and complete story.

I went into the book without any real introduction (there’s no summational blurb inside or outside the book), but I think that was the right way to go, so I’m hesitant to say too much about the book lest any of you decide to read it. Basically, Sabriel is a teenaged girl who must venture into The Old Kingdom where magic is prevalent, but none more so than necromancy. But this isn’t simply a “raise a corpse and make some zombies” kind of necromancy. Death is very, very different in The Old Kingdom and reading about it is melancholic, chilling, but beautiful too.

There’s a few oddities in word choice and sometimes the focus on description gets a bit Tolkien-esque, but if you’re hankering for a fantasy book that doesn’t feel like a giant undertaking, I’d highly recommend Sabriel. You can potentially enjoy it as a standalone, but you’ll want dive back in after experiencing Nix’s fascinating world.

 

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino

cosmicomics

A co-worker lent me this funny little book after I let her borrow Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. It’s a collection of short stories based on scientific theory with characters that are anthropomophisized mathematical formulae. If that sounds like it’s too over your head, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. For example, the first story, narrated by a being known as Qfwfq, talks about how “people” used to climb up to the moon and hang out on it before it started moving farther away from Earth. It’s all very whimsical and told in a stream of consciousness style that is sometimes hard to read, but many of the stories are genuinely funny. In my favorite, titled The Light-Years, a “person” spots a galaxy with a sign that reads “I SAW YOU”, and so he makes his own sign in reply knowing it’ll take 100 million years until the other “person” sees it. I laughed out loud during this and a few other stories, and any book that can get me to do that deserves recognition.

 

Currently Reading:

Lirael by Garth Nix

Lirael

After a brief detour with Cosmicomics, I went right to the next book in the Abhorsen trilogy. The story takes place fourteen years after Sabriel and is centered on a new protagonist. It’s about 200 pages longer than its predecessor, but when I actually found a stretch of time to read I breezed through the first 100 pages. We’ll see if I have this done by next month.

 

Currently Watching:

American Gods

If you haven’t read it, read it. If you don’t want to, watch the show anyway. It’s only one episode in, but damn good so far. Pining for Game of Thrones? This is your new replacement.

 

Currently Gaming:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)

So much do. So little time.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (Xbox One)

My fiancée and I keep inching ahead of each other bit by bit.

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The Good Bits: Top 10 Albums of 2015 Redux

Back when I was doing radio, a few of my fellow DJs would do a show around this time of year where they reflected on their favorite music from the pervious year. They would change around their top albums, include music they’d missed out on, and elaborated on how well their favorites had aged. I nicked this tradition from them while on radio and have decided to do so again on The Good Bits!

Here’s a list original top ten albums of 2015. If you’d like to see my initial thoughts on this list, you can head over to Metal Insider where it was originally posted.

Top 10 Albums of 2015:

10) Panopticon, Autumn Eternal
9) Intronaut, The Direction of Last Things
8) Sigh, Graveward
7) Leprous, The Congregation
6) Clutch, Psychic Warfare
5) Between The Buried And Me, Coma Ecliptic
4) Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls
3) Ghost, Meliora
2) Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase.
1) Ghost Bath, Moonlover

Honorable Mentions:

Enslaved, In Times
TesseracT, Polaris
Mutoid Man, Bleeder

Now, nearly a year later in 2016, I’ve gone over these albums again, noted which ones I’ve returned to the most, discovered ones I missed, and then reassessed my list. It remains mostly the same but with two notable changes, both of which involve a mutual vocalist.

Top 10 Albums of 2015 Redux:

10) Sigh, Graveward

sigh-graveward

Graveward is still ridiculous, yet also still straightforward compared to Sigh’s other releases. If you like your black metal with an 80’s shred tinge, this is still a solid go to.

 

9) TesseracT, Polaris

tesseract

My initial impression of TesseracT’s third LP was that it was good, though not as good its predecessor Altered State. Part of this was due to my preference of vocalist Ashe O’Hara, whose performance dominated Altered State and who was replaced by original singer Daniel Tompkins for this album. But I kept coming back to Polaris this past year thanks to the tight, proggy songwriting and Tompkins’ performance eventually won me over. I was remiss in not including last year, and so it has been bumped up from its spot in the Honorable Mentions.

 

8) Earthside, A Dream In State 

earthside

Cinematic maybe isn’t the first word to come to mind when describing a metal band, but it certainly describes the music put together by the fantastic musicians comprising Earthside. A Dream In Static is a mainly instrumental journey occasionally joined by guest vocalists such as the aforementioned Daniel Tompkins, Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust, and more. The addition of the Moscow Studio Symphony Orchestra on select tracks only adds to the shifting soundscape, full of gorgeous peaks and unique textures that many progressive bands push for but don’t always meet. This album is a treat and Earthside should be on everyone’s watchlist.

 

7) Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch

I only really got into Clutch when they put out Earth RockerPsychic Warfare is an excellent follow-up that is on par with its predecessor.

 

6) Leprous, The Congregation

leprous-the-congregation-01

The dark horse of 2015 for me is still holding the original spot I gave it. Leprous are one of the finer progressive metal acts out there.

 

5) Between The Buried And Me, Coma Ecliptic

coma_ecliptic_cover_art_by_between_the_buried_and_me

I saw the band perform the entire album live this year. That only helped solidify my love for this album.

 

4) Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls

iron-maiden-the-book-of-souls-2015

I’m a Maiden fanboy. That’s all I feel the need to say.

3) Ghost, Meliora

meliora

Ghost have gotten better and better with every album. The only thing that would make Meliora better is if “Square Hammer” from the Popestar EP released this year was on it.

 

2) Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase.

steven_wilson_hand_cannot_erase_cover

This is still one of the single most moving, beautifully written albums I’ve ever heard. Steven Wilson is a gift to the musical world.

 

1) Ghost Bath, Moonlover

ghost-bath

Of all the albums on this list, I think I go back and listen to Moonlover the most. Ghost Bath are one of the best new acts out there and this album may very well rank in my personal best of all time.

 

And there you have it; my retrospective on my favorite albums from 2015. I’m sure there are still other albums that got swept under the rug or albums that I didn’t appreciate the first time around, but nothing in the music world is ever static. Stay tuned for my favorite albums for 2016 coming soon!

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