Ghoul. Who are they? What are they? Why are they? What can we do about them?
They…it…are…is… a travelling metal sideshow. And like a sideshow the performers come and go, the quality depends on how much you are willing to invest as an audience, and the results are not to be taken seriously. What you can depend on is that it will be freaky. And in the case of Ghoul, it will be heavy.
When you see the current members you might make a few assumptions. This record is going to be splattergrindy. It’s going to be blast beaty. It’s going to be fast and snorty and screamy. What you may not assume, though, is that it is as much homage to the best years of thrash metal as it is a contemporary take on extreme metal. Or, as a matter of fact, just how much fun this thing is going to be.
But fun it is. It is a splatterthrash opera about a dystopian genocidal megalomaniac and it plays it both for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolent, if I may quote Clockwork Orange. What it is not is bogged down by anything important or mopeish. This is an end of civilization block party, complete with guillotines and wine. It is hilariously disgusting and appropriately heavy.
From the outset the band is taking us all on a B-movie ride. The opening narration sounds, for all the world, exactly like the trailer for Damnation Alley or Food of The Gods or a dozen other 70’s sci-fi/horror flicks. The text is over the top, but sets the tone perfectly. The opening instrumental is probably the best Anthrax song since “Among the Living.” Then the meat hits the rotating knives, and we are plunged into a world of death gurgles, snotty punk shouts, thrash screams and even SOD/MOD gang choruses. Nothing is out of bounds as long as it flays.
Musically, the record is a sonic pinball table created with a thrash metal theme. You will find nods to The Accüsed, Testament, Nuclear Assault, DRI – basically the who’s who of mid 80’s thrash and crossover. But it is captured with a light heart and crisp production. Not at all the kind of Carcass/Impaled/Exhumed meat slab we might expect, but not exactly the basement style of the old days, either, though that is closer to the sound.
The musicians play the roles of Cremator (Ross Sewage), Digestor (Sean McGrath), Dissector (Peter Svoboda), Fermentor (Pe Mon) – or so I gather. The band wear masks and use handed-down stage personas, so it might be anyone, but I am going with what Wikipedia told me because I don’t really care. Whoever they are, they are monster players playing monster riffs and shredding solos.
The actual songs are consistently fast and catchy; perfect moshing music. “Dungeon Bastards” is a screaming chaotic rocket ride displaying the band’s best attributes – musicianship and musicality – along with the expected blistering riffing. “Word is Law” is almost straight up SOD worthy, with brashly spoken lyrics and a grooving mosh tempo. No cut stands out particularly, but none are wasted, either.
Is it a classic? No. It stands out mainly as being entertaining and succinct, but as is often the case with played-for-LOLs metal, there is not going to be a lot of staying power to this record. But it does blow a putrid air of goofy fun through metal catacombs that are so often smothering under their own seriousness, and does it without coming off as struggling to be funny for the sake of being funny. The songs are solid, the performances are untarnished, and you can listen without rolling your eyes. Recommended.