By The Ghost Of A Thousand
You have to feel sorry for The Ghost Of A Thousand. 'New Hopes, New Demonstrations' is an inwards-looking, absolutely massive-sounding hardcore album. Unfortunately, it comes hot on the heels of Gallows' equally brilliant 'Grey Britain' album. As such, it might not quite make the impact it should, although it'll have existing The Ghost Of A Thousand fans in fits of ecstasy.
Album-opener 'Moved As Mountains, Dreamt of By The Sea' is the sound of the 'New Hopes, New Demonstrations' beast flexing its muscles, ready to drag the listener kicking and screaming through thirty-five minutes of unrelenting hardcore aggression.
'Moved As Mountains...' is as darkly theatrical as its title suggests, with an instrumental introduction of black-hearted riffs that creep and reverberate through tumbling drumbeats.
But, this is only the calm before the storm, as Lacey's opening howl shatters through your speakers, and 'Moved As Mountains...' is off, with galloping drumbeats, pulsing fret-work and machine-gun vocals.
'Moved As Mountains...' is one of only a handful of songs on 'New Hopes, New Demonstrations' that merges Lacey's screech and the supporting clean vocals, instead of allocating each their own segment. 'New Hopes...' sounds more energetic when the dual vocals are ricocheting off one another, and it's a shame The Ghost Of A Thousand don't bring the two together more often.
'Moved As Mountains...' is designed to get the listener sitting up and paying attention. After twenty seconds, you'll either be hooked, or making a drive for the 'eject' button. But, whatever your reaction, it won't be indifference.
Album highlight is easily 'Fed To The Ocean.' If there's one 'New Hopes, New Demonstrations' song you need to hear, this is it. It's also one of the few The Ghost Of A Thousand songs where the clean secondary vocals don't feel slightly superfluous.
On the chorus, Lacey performs a minor miracle by pacing his impenetrable screams in a way that'll make you want to work out what he's caterwauling about, so you can caterwaul along with him. This is one screaming fit you won't be able to get out of your head.
Those tuneful screams are accompanied by a cyclone of inwards-turning riffs that makes the chorus even more infectious.
For the verses, The Ghost Of A Thousand release waves of riffs that simultaneously manage to sound dark and brooding in the centre, and twangy and tinny around the edges. 'Fed To The Ocean' is packed with ingenious touches, and is begging for a single release.
At the other end of the scale, 'Neptune' is the one song that's probably worth skipping over. Here, The Ghost Of A Thousand seem determined to see how fast they can play, and in the pursuit of this goal, they employ thrashy drumbeats, spazzcore riffs and tongue-tying vocals. Unfortunately, it's lacking that underlying, rock-solid bass groove that The Ghost Of A Thousand usually do so well, and it ends up sounding like complete chaos. Yes, it's angry and loud and impressively fast, but it just sounds like a racket - and anyone can make a racket.
Why The Ghost Of A Thousand couldn't make 'Neptune' both angry and tuneful, is even more puzzling, as 'Canyons of Static' is a master class in how to make extreme rage coherent. The ending in particular drips bile, as Lacey gnashes his teeth over some particularly venomous lyrics. It's frightening to hear, and the rest of the song isn't far behind it in terms of pure rage. Tormented riffs writhe across blast beat drums, and the chorus bristles with shrapnel-like riffing. There is a slight respite with a bridge section of clean vocals but, apart from that, 'Canyons of Static' is an unrelenting hardcore bludgeoning.
But, it isn't all about venting. 'Nobody Likes A Hero' is the album's most melodic offering. Opening with some nicely grating guitars, 'Nobody Likes a Hero' then staggers through a segment of limping drums and massive, juddering riffs, and finally into a melodic opening verse.
Predictably though, it isn't long before The Ghost Of A Thousand get tired of self-restrain and throw up a wall of sound, with a chorus that's packed with churning riffs, spiky chords and Lacey's skin-flaying vocals. The second half reprises the melody of the opening thirty seconds, but with a darker twist, thanks to some spine-tingling piano and reverberating bass lines. 'Nobody Likes A Hero' is dark, melodic rock with a molten core.
The Ghost Of A Thousand come over all punk for 'Running On Empty,' which blends their usual hardcore clatter with quick-footed drumbeats. The main hook is a wonderfully warped riff that twists and turns through 'Running On Empty's bristling rhythms, and gives this song's noisy hardcore a cutting edge.
The chorus is possibly the most punk The Ghost Of A Thousand have ever sounded, as Lacey snarls and screams and generally makes noises that should, by all rights, make him throw up immediately afterwards. A slight deviation from what we'd usually expect from the band, but a successful one nonetheless.
There's also a slight punk feel to the chorus of 'Knees, Toes, Teeth.' It isn't the most immediate cut from the album; the looped bass rhythms of the verses, lack that elusive extra something, but the chorus more than makes up for that, as bone-shaking riffs knock heads and Lacey roars "it's only rock n roll!" in his best throat-full-of-nails impression. Stick through those vaguely un-enthralling verses, because the spiky punk chorus is a blast.
When heard in isolation, first single 'Bright Lights' is a great song. However, it pales in comparison to the other songs on this album, particularly 'Fled To The Ocean' and 'Canyons of Static.'
'Bright Lights's base riffs all have a circular quality, churning the listener into the song's gnarled heart. It also pulls the old, but never tired, trick of a before-the-storm style lag, just before the extreme hardcore chorus blows up in the listener's face. It's an adrenaline-releasing song, and the fact that it isn't an album highlight, makes you realise just how good this album actually is.
'New Hopes, New Demonstrations' draws to a close with the six and a half minute epic 'Good Old Fashioned Loss' and there's no chance of anything stealing this song's thunder.
During its running time it may cover extensive musical terrain, but it takes classic The Ghost Of A Thousand territory as its starting point. We duly receive an ear-bashing from some wonderfully jumbled riffs, which rev up and slow down seemingly at random; jar against one another, and seem on the verge of shaking themselves apart. They're strung vaguely together by one of The Ghost Of A Thousand's tight bass lines, which makes the first two minutes the sound of barely contained chaos.
So far, so typical The Ghost Of A Thousand, but then they deviate from the formula with long, ringing riffs and ponderous drumbeats. The combo plods joylessly over the same ground again and again, and you'll be lulled into a not-unpleasant stupor.
The next section will hold you even more captivated, as The Ghost Of A Thousand scatter some sparkly, chiming synths over a trembling bass line, in a combo that's designed to unsettle.
And then it's time for the finale. The Ghost Of A Thousand sweep us into a swirling, cinematic soundscape that's deep in reverberating riffs and brooding bass lines, but spiked with a surface shrapnel of hardcore chords. A drama-drenched ending that'd be worthy of even the most over-the-top concept album.
'New Hopes, New Demonstrations' takes hardcore to its extremities. There's nearly always rhythm beneath all that noise, but it's clinging on by the skin of its teeth. Occasionally, The Ghost Of A Thousand take things too far, as with 'Neptune' but, most of the time they work miracles by making something that's so angry and chaotic, and yet not a complete stranger to a good tune.
This is the second jaw-dropping, home grown hardcore album to be released in a month - fans of hardcore must be feeling pretty spoilt right about now.