Ghold – Of Ruin (Ritual Productions, 16 March 2015)
Ghold – Pyr (Ritual Productions, 06 May 2016)
Hello out there — how is your Tuesday going? It’s almost time to go home and I’m totally ready for a nap. I feel pretty confident in saying I will probably be passed out on the bus ride home, if I even make it that far. And there’s another hockey game tonight, so if there’s going to be any hope of me staying awake to see that, maybe a late afternoon nap wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Before I go, though, it’s about time to share some more listening material with you fine people. Today that will consist of a pair of albums — one a little over a year old, the other released just four days ago — both by London stoner-sludge-grunge-noise band Ghold …
On the earlier of the two, 2015’s six-track Of Ruin, Ghold was made up of two people, on bass and drums. As the album opens, the beginning of “Saw the Falling” has a rather mellow vibe using soft, sustained bass chords — and this repeats several times, alternating with heavier distorted bits — which overall sounds an awful lot like Bell Witch. But from that point on, it would be more apt to make comparisons with a different duo of similar instrumentation: Black Tar Prophet, or even more so, Beehoover.
Much of the material to be found here is rather slow and monolithic — that is, crawling along and punctuated by these thunderous unison hits. Every once in a while the band sort of gets into a bit of a groove, if only briefly; some of the songs have sections that even seem a little funky (for example, around the middle of “All Eyes Broke” or early in “Pursed”). But for the most part they alternate between slow and mellow, really slow and heavy, or faster and grungey/grindy. (Now, when I say this, I’m not referring to a grindcore sound — I mean that the dirty, distorted bass tone here actually brings to mind an image of gigantic gears grinding together and crushing anything that gets in their way.)
Vocally, there are usually two (or more) parts intermingling (or in unison with each other) — at least one is usually a deep, low roar, hollering and bellowing; the second part sometimes mirrors the first, but at other times is more of a higher-pitched yell or call; and on occasion (like at the beginning of “All Eyes Broke”) there is a blend of semi-melodic rhythmic drone-singing. In all of these cases, both voices sound extremely distant, like they’re being shouted from the opposite ends of an olympic-sized indoor swimming pool.
These various parts swarm around each other, structured in such a way as to sometimes build up the intensity (“Partaken Incarnate” builds very gradually, ultimately becoming a strange, beautiful mess; “Pursed” too ends up transforming into a confused mess of vocals), but elsewhere to break everything down into its base components. The longest song here at well over eleven minutes, “Odic Force,” starts out sounding fast and furious, but soon turns really, really slow; the remainder of the song comes across as the musical equivalent of a person with slow motor skills and impaired reflexes due to intoxication.
By the time new album Pyr rolled around, the band had added a third member, playing guitar. While the band’s core sound has not altered much, with the thunderous monolithic bits to the mellower bits, fuzzy stoner-sludge riffs, and dual heavy bellowed vocal parts, this album does seem to add an extra dimension of thick, reverby atmosphere — and certainly ramps up the chaos and noise factors. The songs here almost seem to forget they’re supposed to be songs, as the end of each track approaches, instead turning increasingly more scattered and confused, chaotic and noisy. Second track “Blud” in particular explodes into a wild, frantic burst of crazy right near the end.
This release only has four tracks altogether (plus one CD-only bonus song, “Something of Her Old Fire”), but still manages to exceed the running time of its predecessor. For the most part, this is thanks to the exceedingly long (over twenty-one minutes) closer “Despert Thrang,” which starts out as a tangle of particularly messy noise, irregular rhythms and sounds, which becomes increasingly unnerving over the track’s first several minutes. Eventually, though, this all coalesces into a heavy sludgey riff. An uptempo but quiet and mellow walking bassline (accompanied by faraway-sounding clean vocals) alternates with a similarly uptempo heavier distorted part; but as time ticks by, the song goes off on some rather long and meandering tangents. With the eerie high-pitched choir sounds that come in for a little while, things turn sort of Wrekmeister Harmonies-ish at times. But overall, the main reaction I had while listening was that clearly, this song is just high as fuck.
* * * * * * *