Stoic by Ghold

Release date: November 3, 2017
Label: Crypt of the Wizard

For those who ply their trade down in the low and slow end of the metal spectrum it’s all too easy to fall into a rut. Exhibit A: Electric Wizard. You don’t need to have heard their latest release to know exactly what it sounds like – just like all their other records. When you’ve found a doom/sludge groove it can be comforting to stick to it – for fans and band alike – in playing minor variations on a theme for years or decades at a time. Ghold seem to be a band determined not to fall into such complacency, pushing themselves into new territory with each studio expedition over their 5 year run. But that too can be a mixed blessing.

For Stoic, the first release for London metal record store Crypt of the Wizard, Ghold have stripped back their equipment and recorded their racket in Leeds Unitarian Chapel, an acoustically interesting if slightly incongruous venue for them to bring their filthy ruckus. They swelled from a duo to a trio on last outing Pyr, but the strange thing is how much they sound like a two piece now. Specifically Big Business, who they supported for their record launch in London earlier this month. The bellows on ‘Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand)’ will sound very familiar to fans of the Seattle twosome, whilst ‘Nothing Dreamt’ with its tumbling riffs sounds like it could be tacked on as a bonus track to a reissue of Big Business’ Head for the Shallow and no one would question it. The main differentiating feature is the rumbling low end, which sounds like they’ve joined Conan in their quest for the fabled Brown Riff, the one to soil any trouser that comes into contact with it. And despite the familiarity there’s no denying their heft and the strange catchiness of their barbed melodicism, particularly at the rousing close of ‘Ruptured Earth’.

The two part epic ‘SKHUL V’ & ‘SKHUL VI’ sound a bit more unique to Ghold, ‘V’ with its snail paced awkward riffery, wailing siren guitars and bruised soloing and ‘VI’ with its furious bluster, a colossal bassy mulch that descends upon you like a mudslide, an indistinct mess of sound that’s enjoyable in it’s sheer relentlessness. But ‘Blue Robe’ and ‘Faeder Ure’ are the tracks where they really step out of their comfort zone. The former is a serene drone piece that starts midway through opener ‘Nothing Dreamt’, dreamlike in its lapping waves of guitar noise and eerie falsettos. It brings to mind the likes of Lawrence English and guitar soundscape artist Kevin Hufnagle, and whilst being the furthest departure from their wheelhouse displays a fine ear for ambience and acts as a perfect scene setter for ‘Ruptured Earth’. ‘Faeder Ure’ couldn’t be more different -a disturbing cacophony of banging, clanging, malevolent whispers and distant screams that sounds like being stuck in a haunted abattoir or a Scott Walker fever dream.

Whilst their commitment to broadening horizons is admirable it leaves Ghold feeling a little lacking in identity. There’s a lot to enjoy on Stoic, but it steps into the shadow of Big Business a little too readily. They have all the right tools at their disposal, crafting sounds both bludgeoning and oddly ethereal, and on a pure sonic level it sounds imposing and impressive, but for all their endeavour they haven’t quite managed to chisel out their own niche just yet.

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