Gost - Rites of Love and Reverence (Cover Artwork)


Rites of Love and Reverence (2021)

Century Media

The dotted line that exists between metal and synthwave was a bit confusing to me at first, to be completely honest. When I first started hearing Carpenter Brut and Perturbator played in bars and before shows, I didn’t dislike it at all, but it did feel a little jarring if you were waiting to watch something a bit more earthy, which more often than not I was. Then the discourse started and for a while there seemed to be a very tribal split (who’d have thought it from a discussion largely based online) as to whether this new yet seemingly anachronistic, neon, pulsing dance music was part of the metal scene. In the intervening years, it has woven itself more and more into the fabric of the heavy community and although it remains a relatively small sub-genre, its influence has been tangible in the scene at large. One of the earlier leading lights was Gost. Releasing 5 albums from 2013 to 2019, bearing titles such as Skull, Possessor and Valediction and with a darker aesthetic than many of his contemporaries, there did appear to be a greater overlap in Gost’s own version of the metal/synthwave Venn diagram.

By the time of 2019’s Valediction, Gost had signed to metal giant Century Media and had expanded his sound to incorporate industrial, blackened elements, post-punk and more. Which brings us to Rites of Love and Reverence. 10 tracks, sub-45 minutes, released again through Century Media; and with vocals, instruments, production, engineering, mixing and mastering all done by the man himself. So this is a solo project in the truest sense of the phrase. It’s undeniably impressive and seemingly allows for Gost’s artistic vision to be hewn from his mind unencumbered and undiluted. James Lollar (AKA Gost) has described himself and approach to creativity as being like a revolving door. Keen to never stay in the same place for too long. This conceptual wanderlust is something that has led other artists in the past to lose sight of what it is that they excelled at in the first place (though the impulse itself should always be commended), but mercifully this is not a pitfall that Gost has fallen into.

Rites of Love and Reverence is an album unlike others in the wider synthwave scene. Lollar eschews the brighter and buzzier danceable tropes and instead aims his sights on something altogether more sinister. The album begins with ”Bell, Book and Candle”, an unsettling quasi-intro track with an ominous spoken word passage over layered strings, an industrial-tinged pulsing beat and strained choral vocals that builds to a genuinely horrifying climax before breaking down to something that sounds suspiciously like a digeridoo and a whispered vocal before dying altogether. Immediately afterwards you are thrown headlong into the bludgeoning, gothic sounds of “Bound By The Horror” which includes a Gost vocal performance that is not a million miles away from Marilyn Manson. There is even a synth-based breakdown which is scathing enough as it is, but when the Pyscho-esque string stabs arrive halfway through, just before the black metal vocals creep up from deeper in the mix, the song becomes nightmarish, yet still you will find your head nodding and a malevolent grin spreading across your face.

Be it the organ that precedes the driving soundscape of “Blessed Be” or the more contemplative and delicate textures of “November Is Death”, the imagery conjured by Gost is wholly more akin to The Terminator than it is Flashdance and that is the key here. It doesn’t make it necessarily better than others who have come from the same background or scene, but it does at least make Gost distinct. It’s Tech Noir. It’s Type O Negative. It’s Dave Gahan’s ’96 OD. It’s streetlight reflected in sunglasses worn at night. Sleaze, sweat and sin. And when those icy shards of black metal do pierce through the stained leather of the base sound, then they work far better than they probably have any right to.

I’ve never really fallen in love with bands like AFI or even Alkaline Trio the way that so many people have. I also didn’t go nuts for the first incarnation of synthwave; or at least I didn’t find myself reaching for it often. Now however, Gost has arrived at such a potent mixture of influences, styles and production techniques that the result is incredibly intoxicating. I’m sure some will prefer to smoother, more mellifluous style of Perturbator’s Lustful Sacraments from earlier this year but for me, the path that Gost has not chosen so much as forged, is far more beguiling. There is no way that I won’t be coming back to this record. It’s evil, evocative and sexy. And surely that’s a combination that most people will at least be intrigued by.