Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ghost Bath - Ghost Bath / Funeral / Moonlover

Ghost Bath is a post-rock band from North Dakota who gained a fair amount of attention/notoriety by pretending to be from China and playing some sort of awful depressive black metal that sounds like Deafheaven, but even worse. Spawned out of their frontman's noisecore band "I, Apparatus" it's not surprise that Ghost Bath explore concepts such as "what if Orchid songs were eight minutes long?" and "will hipsters ironically buy junk because it's Made in China?" which have earned attention from Pitchfork, Vice, and other publications that cover trends in metal. In recognition, Ghost Bath have earned an entry in the Hall of Shame.

Ghost Bath (2012)

This starts off with what sounds like a catchy, melodic post-punk/gothic rock song, but what a tease it is. It soon reveals itself to be little more than crappy post-rock with cry-yodeling over it, assembling an overall aesthetic of "depressive black metal" while avoid black metal aside from a couple faster strums with double bass. The odd-numbered tracks are this style, the even-numbered tracks are dinky piano pieces with a timid lack of dynamics, the left hand tapping a chord while the right hand plays fragments of melody over them. Poorly composed, or "minimalist" if you're trying to excuse it being crap.

Funeral (2013)

Ghost Bath mixes the post-black metal style of Deafheaven with depressive black metal style focused on lengthy atmospherics and sad-sounding non-metal interludes. Tremolo-picking, blast beats, atmospheric synths, and lots of reverb - you get the idea. The band's style is characterized by moody interludes: clean guitar in "Silence," piano in "Sorrow," and organ in "March." I could tell you about that boring shit all day long, but I'm here to make a point more concisely than this 64-minute album.

This isn't a black metal band. They lean on eight-minute songs loaded with tremolo picking and blast beats like crutches, but all of the movement within the songs - hooks and the transitions - are phrased differently, as mood-reflecting hooks. Sad, mopey stuff, with varying instrumentation to achieve one texture. Aimless hooks repeated for two minutes and presented as interludes, or surrounding Orchid-esque screamo bursts bloated into eight-minute songs - either way the music is all about the moody licks. This is an indie-rocker Joy Division/The Smiths wannabe who can't write a chorus, can't sing, but can step on a distortion pedal. Just a melancholy frame without a picture in it.

This is an aesthetic with no purpose beyond that.

Moonlover (2015)

While we've known all along (at least I have, from the initial submission on Metal Archives) that Ghost Bath isn't actually from China, that ruse might be permissible if you understand that these post-rockers' planned a couple album in advance to have an excuse for giving a song a really fucking stupid name like "Happyhouse" - what the fuck? Ridiculous Engrish is a famed hallmark of black metal - if you are a false don't entry! Stupid names and song titles are an infamous hallmark of depressive black metal, post-rock, and whatever other shit Pitchfork et al cover these days. I should probably write more about this dumb publicity stunt (a paragon of boundless self-expression) because that's the only reason anyone has paid attention to this band, but I'll try to put myself in a better place for rest of review. Do Happyhouse have open door?

The band has made two major strides since their previous full-length: First, they improved their production, which most notably buries the awful cry-yodeling vocalist a little. Second, they streamlined their songwriting and album structure, cleaning up the heavily fragmented, interlude-laden form of their previous album, or at least more neatly packaging it in seven tracks. The songs are more structured, but feel no more purposeful, just arbitrarily organized as they have been mulled over once more.

Still, the music is primarily fixated on simply channeling a vibe, bouncing between post-rock/metal and Deafheaven-worship to deliver little more than a vague wave of sadness. There's no narrative feel to the songs, they don't have a greater story to tell. This is like someone who sits around moping, yet can't explain why. They lack either introspection or presentation to tell a story rather than create a collage of influences. Some parts stand out, such as the melodic gothic/post-punk stylings in "Death of the Maiden" - something which kicked off their debut EP too. Perhaps they could find a comfortable way to borrow styles for entire songs in order to make a coherent statement, rather than being the black metal equivalent of the kid with eleven different bracelets around his arm.


Apteronotus said...

Unlike Deafheaven though, Ghost Bath's secrecy makes it so that their fans cannot invoke the dreaded "flannel-defense" where fans of a band discount an opinion as based only on a band's looks. You know the line: "It seems like Deafheaven/Liturgy/etc. get a lot of hate about their music because of how they dress."

Part of me wonders whether the entire scandal was contrived for the purpose of additional publicity, but I really enjoyed reading your critique.

Orion M. said...

I'll admit that Moonlover artwork was pretty enticing... unfortunately for Ghost Bath - and fortunately for myself - I get distracted way too easily to actually listen to this crud.

Unknown said...

Shitty thing about ghost bath. They are a bunch of scene kids stuck in the screamo era of shitty music. Fuck this joke of a band.