Ghost Bath – Moonlover

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Band: Ghost Bath
Album: Moonlover
Record label: Northern Silence Productions
Release date: April 10th, 2015
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Tracklisting:
1. The Sleeping Fields
2. Golden Number
3. Happyhouse
4. Beneath the Shade Tree
5. The Silver Flower Pt. 1
6. The Silver Flower Pt. 2
7. Death And The Maiden

Sometimes you read an interview and just stand there slack-jawed and shaking your head—because what you just read was so goddamn pretentious, that you hope it’s some miserable publicity stunt. And maybe it was. But it didn’t make it any less vapid and hollow. Those who have read the Ghost Bath piece in Vice [1] about their deception regarding the band’s location know what I’m talking about. With virtually every answer dripping with miserable excuses for answers, most of which fell into a “we’re depressed, the world is ugly and detestable” mentality, it felt like almost a lifetime mission to blacklist the band from my ears.

But sometimes it’s difficult to ignore the voices. All the chatter and glowing reviews will stir even the most hard-headed critics, and at the insistence of editor Mark, Ghost Bath’s Moonlover found its way onto my drive, iPod and headphones. And I’ll be the first to admit, for all the bullshit that this band has stirred, it’s played into their favor. Did they need it? Hell no. But their notoriety skyrocketed following this debacle—and I’m proven once again that presumptions aren’t a good thing to hold.

Chances are you have a strong opinion on Deafheaven. And whether those are positive or negative is all on you. Ghost Bath could very easily be mentioned in the same vein, but whereas Deafheaven are off bathing in the sun, [2] possibly never to return to the black metal scene, Ghost Bath are more firmly rooted in the genre. They address themselves via their Facebook and Bandcamp as “depressive black metal”, and when one thinks of that, one probably turns to something like Leviathan‘s masterful The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide. That’s not Moonlover. In such an instance one is comparing apples to apples with shards of razor blades in them.

Moonlover’s eighty-seven second intro is something of an exercise in bliss. It’s harmonious and well-produced, and not about to strip the paint from walls. And when the following track ‘Golden Number’ hits, the band blooms to life. It’s here that all the dumb shit one has read and all the presumptions simply melt away. The band kick in with a swelling punch and some utterly harrowing vocals. If they wanted to, Ghost Bath could pull off a whole horror themed act and become something of the Portal of depressive black metal, image-wise.

Ghost Bath Moonlover

Here is where we fall back to the production value: this album is both gorgeously composed and recorded. If Ghost Bath were to haunt the halls of an abandoned house, the place would be crisp and clear. Perhaps that’s where the threat in their music lies; there’s something so right and sharp with their world, that the melancholy surrounding it becomes a tale of misery under the most picturesque night sky. The band is ripe with mood; the melodic tones of ‘Beneath the Shade Tree’ are scenic and gorgeous, with a strong guitar melody that carries the song throughout.

Great as Moonlover is, the album is still flawed. Clocking in at just seven tracks and forty-two minutes, the album sets its footing so deep in melody and mood that it can be something you find yourself zoning out to. Strong as ‘Beneath the Shade Tree’ is, it goes hand-in-hand with ‘The Silver Flower Pt. 1’, another track that floats slowly. Even pieces of ‘The Silver Flower Pt. 2’ can be quick to lose the listener, despite it being a much heavier song. However, the album ends on ‘Death and the Maiden,’ a truly terrifying track that more than makes up for the slower sections, and finishes the album with some incredible strength.

These Chinese North Dakotans have written a fantastic record. There is plenty to fall in love with on Moonlover. The guitar work on the album is especially fantastic, with some extremely catchy and memorable leads. The mood Ghost Bath set comes through brilliantly most of the time and almost always manages to remain dark, but warm. If you’ve had doubts about checking out them for whatever reason, cast them aside, put on some headphones and hit play. Moonlover is one of black metal’s strongest releases this year.

Footnotes:
1. http://noisey.vice.com/blog/black-metal-hoaxes
2. Deafheaven’s second album was entitled Sunbather. George Clarke stated in an interview with Decibel (Issue February 2015) that they’re experimenting with abandoning longer songs and possibly having more of an electronic presence. He also states that they’re working with more pop sensibilities, though it’s all in the “ideas” phase.”

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