Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Ghoul - Transmission Zero

Band: Ghoul
Album: Transmission Zero
Year: 2011
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
Country: USA

I became a fan of Ghoul after first being introduced to Impaled. My first taste of these chums from Creepsylvania was through their third album Splatterthrash. What really caught my attention was how the band was obviously having fun both lyrically and musically. I mean dressing up as monsters and writing songs that could easily made into campy horror films, whats not fun about that? Another thing was this sort of surfer sounding type of music they liked to add to their songs. It was refreshing for me at the time. Transmission Zero tries to play at the same gimmicks Ghoul are known for, but this time it just doesn't seem to work, at least not fully.

The core elements of what makes Ghoul an enjoyable band to listen to are still there. You have the fun gang shouts in Off With Their Heads and Brain Jerk, the thrashy goodness of Bloodfeast, and the surfer themes of Death In the Swamp. But they feel kind of tired. Perhaps the gimmick is all used up, but it no longer has the same effect that it first did. In fact it might be that they have stuck so closely to the formula they laid out previously that TZ lacks anything real interesting or exciting.

Outside of that the production just bugs the hell out of me. The guitars sound very thin and have no bite to them. The solos are actually pretty vibrant (listen to The Mask of Voodoo), so there are no complaints there. But there is no heavy feeling in the guitars. In fact for the most part I want to say it sounds as if the band recorded the album in a cardboard box. It just sounds muddy and this emasculated of any strength.

I am still a fan of the vocals. There are two styles used the majority of the time. One is a higher pitched gravely snarl that is very reminiscent of Jeff Walker from Carcass. The other is a lower death growl that is around the norm for the genre. The gang shouts are sort of a highlight, they are fun and really compliment the bouncy melody driven style the band seems to have been going for. Then there are the vocals that seem to be driven through effects programs to give them an even further garbled deeper tone that pepper the album throughout.

Like I said before most of the material is melody driven. The album is great if you want short catchy bursts of music you can play in the background and bob your head to. In fact I've used it for background music while playing video games a few times and it seems that's when its at its best. Well the songs are short with the exception of Morning of the Mezmetron. This one comes in out of left field at a bit over 8 minutes long and has a much slower doomy pace to it. Its kind of different and seems to be more about telling a story lyrically then being very musically interesting.

I was looking forwards to the next release by Ghoul but have to say Transmission Zero didnt quite live up to my expectations. The band offers short mid-paced death/thrash with heaps of melody. But it comes of as tired and gives me the "been there done that" mentality while giving it a listen. Still it is a half decent album and if you enjoy what Ghoul has had to offer in the past its likely you might enjoy TZ. But I think I will stick to Splatterthrash, and would suggest that to anyone who is looking for fun catchy death/thrash.

Score: 6/10
Standout Tracks: Off With Their Heads, Blood Feast

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