Sparking intrigue with their debut album Moonlover, GHOST BATH have returned with their new offering, Starmourner. Building a strong fanbase in the black metal scene with their peculiar style which split fans down the middle, this offering takes a more joyful approach to life compared to the more depressive Moonlover. While still keeping its sorrowful undertones to heart, how does Starmourner’s change in emotion hold up in a sub-genre that’s synonymous with depressive?
The album opens with Astral, which is a delicate piano intro that leaves you wondering “what exactly are GHOST BATH up to here?” Originally rather peaceful and almost uplifting, the instrumental piece rather quickly takes a dark shift into a malevolent ambient track towards the end, showing that GHOST BATH haven’t lost their roots. Seraphic follows next – a more depressive track with high-pitched wailing screams and a barrage of black metal riffs, and more subtly positive tones resonating in the background.
Ethereal is absolutely the highlight of Starmourner and really demonstrates what GHOST BATH seemed to be going for with the record. With a significantly more positive and (pardon the pun) ethereal vibe to the track, it’s a massive difference from the content on Moonlover, and displays the band’s ability to present varying emotions and stories from record to record. Additionally, it almost challenges the realms of depressive black metal by providing a more uplifting atmosphere all around, and focusing on entirely different themes compared to the band’s previous work. Varying styles in the album, ranging from fast and harmonic guitars, to more acoustic or atmospheric offerings, even some clean guitar sections such as in Ambrosial, is more than commendable and makes for an instrumentally varied experience. The tracks Astral and Ode are pleasant piano pieces to start and end the album, bringing calm to a manic 70 minutes of an atmospheric barrage.
Individually, the tracks on Starmourner are strong and a great development in the sound GHOST BATH offers. For example, Thrones is an incredible musical composition which is drawing and complex. However, as an album, the tracks seem to blend together into a similar sound, with the instrumentals sounding quite identical most of the time. Additionally, while predominantly instrumental tracks are a nice element of the album and significantly add to the immersion, a lacking lyrical presence overall hinders the experience and doesn’t really give the impact it could have with the inclusion of lyrics. With such ethereal and more positive themes, some lyrics of the same description would have been a nice addition and helped to create the image that GHOST BATH were trying to create. This said, the use of the vocals as an instrument manage to put across the feelings of anguish and despair those who follow depressive black metal desperately crave.
Starmourner is an interesting experience. Simultaneously depressing and uplifting, with a focus on the cosmos and happiness as opposed to depression and solitude, GHOST BATH manage to deliver a generally pleasant and absorbing atmospheric journey. Issues with repetition weakens the record, but it makes for a solid album technically, albeit with slightly less impact than anticipated. It’s an album to soak in, let yourself go to, and fully appreciate from start to finish. Each track works beautifully (even if they’re similar to some degree), and is bursting with a mixture of emotions. Depressive overtones transformed into an astral journey rife with both optimism and anguish, Starmourner is a journey well worth embarking on.
Starmourner is set for release on April 21st via Nuclear Blast Records.
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