Apparently hailing from some forgotten dimension of China called “North Dakota,” Ghost Bath is a band that’s been receiving a lot of positive press lately for their interpretation of a style of depressive black metal similar to… Well, I guess I’m not really sure about that these days. I fell off the tracks of this particular sub-genre at some point following Xasthur‘s Subliminal Genocide and the last ColdWorld record. I will say this, however: If Moonlover is a fair representation of what’s been going on in this realm over the last five+ years, there’s a lot owed to bands akin to Explosions in the Sky.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. A nice stretch of sparkly post-rock can be very enjoyable when the mood strikes. But hooo-lordy, when those shimmery bits of Friday Night Lights get tacked to such a vulnerable brand of gloomy black-ish metal, the results are so maudlin, so defenseless, so frail, you might end up wanting to shove yourself into a gym locker by the time the full 40-minutes of wailing finally comes to an end.
That little lead at the heart of “Golden Number” is really pretty, though. Somewhere out there a guy named Francis is wondering if he really has what it takes to win a girl like Hailey’s affection. Just open your heart and simply allow yourself to love again, Francis. Listen to that epic, climactic midpoint and trust that Hailey’s gonna fill her pants with chocolate hearts when she reads that earnest note you slipped into her locker after Social Studies. Concentrate on the way that silky piano fades the scene to black. Enchanting, isn’t it? I love you so much, Hailey. I mean FRANCIS does. What’s happening to me.
Wait, what? She didn’t respond? No text? Nothing? What was the last pic she posted on her instagram? Her dog wearing an elf hat? Dude, “Happyhouse,” right now. Crank it up and just tear down the walls. It’s okay to love those teary Dawson Leery howls. No rules for lone wolves. That midpoint is actually kind of burly, too. Not bench-press burly. Graceful burly. Like swans banging. Plus, that gently strummed guitar toward the end effortlessly pushes into “Beneath the Shade Tree,” which is a really pretty song. Not afraid to admit that. Figure out how to play that reclusive little number under a campus tree and you just might end up voted “Student Most Likely to Spend Spring Break Working On His Robert Smith Tan.” Hailey who?
Okay, still going with the soft stuff as we move into the aptly titled “The Silver Flower pt 1.” Well, it works within the scope of what precedes it – prettily plucked and strummed grey weather fun. One thing Ghost Bath has under its thumb is the plaintive, voiceless stuff. There’s a discernible strength in the loneliness of simple instrumentals such as these, which serves to reveal the truth that it’s the shrill wailing heard throughout Moonlover that’s chiefly to blame for its glaring mousiness. Thankfully, the glimmer of hope tacked to the closing “Death and the Maiden” mostly hides the grieving, but it’s too little, too late.
Look, I get it. You’re sad. I’m sad, too. Everyone’s sad. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy a rotted night with Nils Frahm’s Wintermusik, rips through Rome’s discography, or the irreparable misery of 40 Watt Sun. But there remains a semblance of power behind those records, whereas this slice of mostly gutless black metal does little else but summon the sort of adolescent vulnerability many of us were all too happy to leave in the dust of our high school years. I suppose even that has an appeal to some.*
*(Note: I have it under good authority that the reviewer has seen all but the final season of Friday Night Lights.)
Hey now, that has little relevance here.
*(Note: I just thought it might be worth pointing out that while the reviewer feels the need to condemn what he deciphers as an aural representation of high school drama, he is perfectly willing to subject himself to a visual account of the same sort of thing for approximately fifty times longer.)
Okay. Well, yes… But one enters into Friday Night Lights with a full understanding of what you’re about to endure. It’s set in a bloody high school.
*(Note: Did you read any lyrics to Moonlover? I’d be willing to bet the farm that none of the songs are about high school. That’s simply how you’ve chosen to interpret them.)
True. Again, I see your point, but I guess I’d simply prefer that black metal not make me feel like I’m in the grips of some high school sadsack drama. It doesn’t always have to be gruesome, but it shouldn’t be so defenseless. More fortitude. More seriousness.
*(Note: I see. Like grown men playing in the snow with homemade halberds and wearing leather armor.)
You do realize we’re the same person, right? You’re throwing us both under the bus here.
*(Note: Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.)