Thursday 25 November 2021

Ghost Cries - Purgatorium (2021)

Country: Japan
Style: Symphonic Black/Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 24 Nov 2021
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The Japanese are known for taking things to extremes; whatever it is that you do, there's likely to be someone in Japan doing it more. The latest example of this for me are Ghost Cries from Tokyo, who tend to be listed as symphonic black/death metal and fairly so but, if you're imagining it right now, it's that squared. The best word I can conjure up is "frantic" as this often feels like shred, but with shredding being done on every instrument at once. I haven't felt this overwhelmed since the latest Fleshgod Apocalypse album.

But it works. I listened to Sin of Justice, the opening onslaught, four times, then watched the official video, before continuing onto the rest of the album, just to figure out what they're doing. It's deceptively calm and symphonic a little way into the song, but keyboard runs and drum fills appropriately hint that it's not going to stay that way for a long and, sure enough, the initial vocals signal "go!" in no uncertain terms. No, I don't mean the number five in Japanese, I mean "unleash the kraken!" It's a good thing that this band is so tight, because this could go horribly wrong in so many ways if the musicians weren't up to the challenge. And that's what this song is: a challenge that they meet.

I tried to follow individual instruments in some of those repeat listens, but I kept failing. If I tried to follow the drums, which are so emphatic that it feels as if there are at least two drummers, I'd succeed for a while but suddenly I'd realise that I'd switched my focus to the keyboards without my active brain noticing the change. The two guitars feel like four and the vocals show up in multiple styles, depending on what the song needs. They're clean for two and a half minutes, then there's a harsh verse ending with a gorgeous and well-timed scream that's all the more impactful for not being acknowledged. Rinse and repeat but with a narrative section midway for good measure.

It's amazing to me how the band got all this into one song that's only a breath over seven minutes long. And there are seven more to come. Frankly, just listen to that one. If it's not your thing, then nothing else here is going to remotely convince you, but if it is your thing, then you've bought this already on the basis of that one song along and my job of providing discovery is done and I'm able to shut up now and be done.

Frankly, there isn't much more to say. Ghost Cries describe their sound as "dramatic death metal", focusing on the vocals, the extreme blastbeats and the symphonic atmosphere. I could add that it all serves the purpose of texture. The clean and harsh vocals don't duet or contrast; they're there to meet whatever textural need the song has at any particular point of time. I'd suggest that this holds true for every other element, including the blastbeats and symphonic keyboard overlays, to the degree of the gothic piano that shows up here and there and occasional effects like dripping water that bookend Demigoddess. Everything's there for texture.

And what that means is that nobody's going to pick a favourite song here on the basis of riffs and hooks and melodies. It's all going to come down to the textures that speak to you. For me, it's Sin of Justice and Demigoddess, with the closer, Phantom of the Kingdom, not far behind. You might pick completely different songs and that's fine. We're all different and we like different textures. But, if you like dense, gothic, dramatic music where six people seem to be playing lead at once, I'd suggest that you're going to find your texture here.

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