I am a fan of the Ghost. Well, that's putting it lightly - I love the Ghost. I believe I've seen the band at least a half-dozen times in support of their 2002 album This Is A Hospital. I completely adored their unique take on post-rock/hardcore. I even made them my MP3 of the Week a few years ago.
So, as a fan, I can tell you that this album stinks.
After 2 years of waiting for a follow-up [and watching the disc's release date get pushed back multiple times], we are left with 9 tracks. One of which is an instrumental. One of which was previously released on their split 12" with The Prosperity Wallet. If you subtract those two tracks from the album, there isn't even a half-hour's worth of new, lyrically-geared music. And it gets worse as you actually listen to these songs and become more and more disappointed in this band's direction.
The album starts off on a positive note with "Broken Ears/Poison Hearts." After you hear the guitar plug into the amp and the prerequisite feedback, you're launched into a pulsating drumbeat following by the Ghost's now-standard interplay between guitars. If there's one thing the band can do, it's write ridiculously cool-sounding overlapping guitar riffs. Singer Brian Moss' voice, however, almost sounds broken as he sings "March along to the chimes of failure" before he explodes, screaming "Crowned butcher, you're far from civilized / Claming progress in poisoned hearts." Thus far, the album is 1-for-1.
"Exorcism In The Key Of A Minor" has some nice moments musically, and Moss' vocals develop more emotion at the softer points of the song as well as gaining strength as he sings "I reinvent myself, we reinvent ourselves". Then, out of the blue, the song comes to a crashing halt and switches gears into a more spasmodic mode, and it just doesn't work. This is the first of many failed attempts at experimentation on the disc. "...And Now For My Disappearing Act" could have been one of the best songs the band's written to date, but it gets bogged down with percussion sampling and electronic noodling that just kills it. "A Letter From God" features Moss' vocals pumped through a robot filter and it just sounds stupid.
One of the album's strangest tracks, however, is "Mad Max Was An Amateur." It contains an awesome 5/8-to-6/8 rhythm and continues with the band's style of angular guitar and bass lines, but then when it reaches the chorus, it sounds like an old sea chanty sailors would sing while sitting around a campfire at a port or something. It's so incredibly uncomfortable to listen to, not to mention the self-promoting lyrics - "We fight like brothers and party like thieves / Excess and irony, alcohol and trees." Am I supposed to care that the band knows how to party?
The lyrics get even worse in "Modern Restless," as Moss yells "Carry on with your pre-death post-rock / I'll be drinking with the hip hop kids down the block. It sound so ridiculous in the context of the song, the most dissonant on the album [and one that is completely deserving of the subgenre "pre-death post-rock"]. Maybe I just don't get it.
So after two years, this is what The Ghost has given us. And it's not really worth holding onto. The best track is the instrumental. Let's hope this is just a sophomore slump, and they can shake off the pressure for their third go-round, if they make it that long.
Banished and Loving It
Mad Max Was An Amateur