Ghost Bath - Self Loather

20 Nov 2021 - Knut

Atmospheric Black Metal/Depressive Black Metal | Nuclear Blast | Release date: 29 Oct 2021

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Even though this music is conceived from grief, anxiety and depression it lends an uplifting and soaring sense. This is mostly due to the glimmering tremolo guitar and melodic themes that soar in and out of the doomy sonics throughout this stunning album.

I have never understood those who compare Ghost Bath to Deafheaven, some with praise and some with scorn. The “Nameless” (Dennis Mikula) behind the band started it with inspiration from Agalloch and that reflects in the music, at least the first albums. When it comes to themes and sonics, Ghost Bath´s music is more related to bands like Coldworld and My Purest Heart For You. And now that the band has released the third album in the trilogy that started with Moonlover they fully display their own, individual take on Atmospheric Black Metal.

If you are not convinced, just listen to the first track ”Convince Me to Bleed” and dive into the fierce music with desperate screams and growling blended in heavy riffing, tremolo guitar and the remorseful guitar that rises repeatedly from the doomy soundscape. And the drumming!! The drumming throughout the album is impressive. It changes the sonics over and over again, played fiercely, virtuously, as it takes the lead throughout the album and leaves you breathless.

But maybe we should talk about the quiet parts of the album, the beautiful parts reminiscent of the calm beauty of Gustav Mahler´s “Adagietto” in his 5th Symphony. They serve as serene fragments in the tumults of the rest of the album. The second song ”Hide from the Sun” turns on its heels into an angelic choir and closes with a beautiful neo-classical grand piano after anguished sobs and cries from a sampled female voice that is immersed in the heavy soundscape. The fourth song ”Sanguine Mask” ends with yet another grand piano part, this time in harmony with a cello. The ending gives something to reflect on after the band has pushed the borders of the genre with fast forward motions driven by the guitars chugging, playing tremolos and blistering solo parts. They lift, they sink - and as if it was an afterthought - launch into a melodic theme. The seventh track ”I Hope Death Finds Me Well” is like the piano pieces we know from previous albums, a four minute calming island in the middle of a storm of Atmospheric Black Metal.

But back to the metal side of things. The fifth song ”A Crystal Lattice” starts fast with the drums taking the lead with a technique beyond blast drumming, the desperate growling and heavy riffs following. The song turns into what might seem like a triumph over self-loathing as the guitars lift the mood. But like almost every song on this album, there are many turns - almost countless, even within each track. The anguish returns and a desperate sob introduces a clean, acoustic guitar, but not for long. The dark soundscapes are back with foreboding black metal music.

”For it is a Veil”, the eight track, shifts and wrings through the melodic themes and sonic landscapes of Black Metal. It seems as if it wants to break free from the growling vocals and dark soundscape with the tremolo guitar and the blistering guitar solos. The veil of the vocals sometimes lingers desperately in the background and is joined by an angelic choir.

Clean lower pitched guitar strings begin the ninth track,”Unbearable” before heavy riffs accompany the growling vocal. A heavy glissando guitar takes over and glides into a dissonant soundscape where it is joined by an equally dissonant piano. The drumming pushes the halting glissando guitar forward before an island of calm piano ends the song. The last song, ”Flickering Wicks of Black” is as short as any punk song, but even here, the band shifts and twists the soundscapes. The song is propelled into your eardrums by dense and heavy guitars, driven by blast drums and fueled by wretched vocals. There is some release in the form of a tremolo guitar that leads into a fuzzy lonely guitar passage that closes the album.

The band started off as a one-man project and released the full length Funeral in 2014, but evolved into a five-piece lead by “Nameless” throughout the trilogy that followed (Moonlover, Starmourner and now Self Loather - can you feel the dark assonance of the titles?). These releases have different soundscapes and, yet, are at the same time all recognizable as a Ghost Bath release. That is because of the musical ideas, the pure craftsmanship of the composer and the musicians and not merely the willingness to push borders, but to embellish the concept of what Atmospheric Black Metal can be. In the sixth song on the album, ”Sinew and Vein” there are not so many twists and turns as on the other songs. It might be interpreted as a shift in mood, looking back and telling something about the plans for the future as the lyrics state: ”After the funeral rain / A lover of the moon, mourner of the stars, loather of self / And from my ashes, hatred blooms with silvery petals and wilted leaves / Beautiful and tragic”.