Album review: Ghost Bath – Starmourner
Genre: Black metal / post-metal
Release date: 21st April, 2017
Record label: Nuclear Blast
Despite opening with a sombre piano riff in “Astral”, Ghost Bath’s third album, Starmourner, goes on to be a depressive, emotive, intense slice of delirium-inducing post-metal. Driven by that unique type of fast, chord-driven yet somehow melodic guitar riff that only the realm of black metal can apparently master, this is a one-of-a-kind journey that gives the despondency of extreme metal a much-needed subversion. It is an intellectual experience that delves into both emotional highs and lows, anchoring each of its twelve songs around the theme of angelology throughout differing religions, including Judaism and Christianity.
So, from the premise alone, it’s already easy to tell that this is not going to be a simple album. Like a fine wine, Starmourner demands constant attention and patience from the listener for it to truly thrive and have its potential realised. After all, it contains over 70 minutes of dark, flowing rock, with the sometimes indecipherable wails and screams of Ghost Bath’s nameless lead vocalist permeating every track.
The defining aspect of the record is that, unlike most contemporary albums, Starmourner does not feel simply like a collection of individual songs. Despite “Thrones” and the eight-minute “Ambrosial” being released as singles, every track on Starmourner bleeds seamlessly into the next. Because of this, there are no real “anthems” or “stand-out tracks” to be found, except for the previously mentioned “Thrones”, which is the only cut to work just as well in its context as out of it. Aside from this, Starmourner is fluid and ever-evolving, and a work that must be heard in its entirety multiple times to be fully appreciated.
As far as versatility and diversity goes, however, the record becomes more of a mixed bag. Its musical modus operandi, carrying on from its predecessor Moonlover (2015), is harmonic, fast guitars, resonating screams and an overall fast pace. Yet, it mixes in elements of the acoustic and tranquil with such ease as well. “Ambrosial” begins with a gorgeous clean guitar section before its descent into a metal-infused Hell; bookenders “Astral” and “Ode” are both beautiful piano movements, with the latter adding in the bass and drums for good measure.
Previously, it’s been easy to compare Ghost Bath with fellow post-black progressives such as Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room, but Starmourner is such an intelligent, immersive and transcendent album that it truly becomes an entity in and of itself. As an experience and an achievement, it is awe-inspiring.
Final rating: Starmourner gets 9 vaping skulls out of 10.
Starmourner will be available physically and digitally via Nuclear Blast Records on 21st April.