Originally written by Jordan Campbell
It’d be easy to dismiss a band like Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. Their lackluster debut record, Buried in the Front Yard, didn’t do much to lend credibility to these absurdly-monikered Pennsylvanians. Plus, it’s always been difficult to deduce what they’re vying for as an artistic entity; their album covers and song titles are jokey—and decidedly unfunny—but the music is, for the most part, pretty straightforward and furious.
Questions remain: Is Rumpelstiltskin Grinder a gimmick band? If so, their gimmick is as poorly defined as their thrash-infused metal is facelessly incestuous.
Are they gunning for perception as serious, blue-collar ragers? If so, they need to stop writing filler songs called “Run Through the Bastards.”
Does their lack of a cohesive brand identity hurt them? Well, when the final product is as straight-line-solid as Ghostmaker, not really. There’s nothing on this platter that deserves intense scrutiny; it’s just another album in areally long line of albums that focuses on delivering rippin’ riff after rippin’ riff. Ghostmaker is basically an Americanized take on melodic deaththrash in the steamrolling vein of, say, Dimension Zero, coupled with the rapid-fire vocals of a Terror 2000. (Remember them?) For the most part, it succeeds… in creating a compelling take on a generic sound, anyway.
Ghostmaker seems to garner most of its strength from the fastrasp vocal delivery of bassist / vocalist Shawn Riley and the gnarled, deceptively intelligent riffing of Matt Moore (last seen tearing it up on Absu’s Abzu). Like most bands of this ilk, they’re at their best when functioning at high speed. The neck-snapping conclusion of “Cold Haunting Death” and the nearlyHelltrain-esque stomp of “Dripping With Venom” are highlights, but when token breathers like the mid-paced “A Lurking Thief” emerge from the shadows, boredom ensues.
Rumpelsltskin Grinder can certainly create some magic when all the pieces fall into place; “Iron Jaw” boasts a cracking, palm-muted midsection to go with a simplistic shoutalong chorus — a perfect formula for simple-minded pit madness. But after the pseudo-epic deathroller “Get Out Of My Grave / Gigantic Graveyard” — which, unfortunately, isn’t a twist on everyone’s second-favorite Billy Ocean song — things get a bit tiresome. Forty-five minutes of this stuff is a little much. Moore should’ve taken a note fromAbzu’s playbook and siphoned a full fifteen minutes of fat from this thing.
At it’s best, Ghostmaker might break a neck or two. At its worst (the cheesedick soloing in “Nightworms”), it’ll trigger a groan, a shrug, and a glance and the clock. This is yet another inoffensive, kinda thrash metal, kinda death metal album from a perfectly capable quartet of heavy metal fans. If your collection needs another one of these, you could certainly do a lot worse.
The question, then, isn’t if Rumpelslitskin Grinder is supposed to be taken seriously, it’s whether their produced works are worth the internal debate in the first place.
Flip a coin.