Finnish death ghouls Ghastly inject weirdness, cosmic grit into captivating ‘Death Velour’

Photo by Saara Kujansuu

Finnish death metal is fairly legendary, right? Lots of huge bands you can rip right off your tongue from Demilich, Convulsed, Sentenced, and so many others have helped shape not only the scene in their country but the sub-genre around the world. The Nordic nation still has plenty to offer despite their already flowing well of riches, and Ghastly are one of the latest.

Now, with Ghastly, you’re not to expect straight-up death brutality. That’s certainly laced into the mix, but you also get some cosmic weirdness and psychedelic trauma to enhance their sound, which they further mold on their captivating second record “Death Velour.” These guys are committed to expanding the death formula beyond our terrain, pushing the imagination and the possibilities of what this sound can be. The songs are gnarly and alien sounding, and the seven tracks they offer up here continue to surprise over the record’s nicely served 37-minute run time. The band—vocalist Gassy Sam, guitarist/vocalist Jonny Urnripper, and multi-instrumentalist Ian J. D’Waters—can draw loose comparisons to artists such as the tragically fallen Morbus Chron, Execration, Horrendous, and even Voivod, but what they do here is totally their own and something fresh and invigorating.

“The Awakening” is ideally named as it feels like just that, a quick introductory instrumental constructed of keys, drums echoing, and strangeness that heads into “Death By Meditation” where riffs bend, and a blistering pace ignites. The vocals scrape while cool melodies wash over everything, turning the ambiance into a mesmerizing haze that holds on strong until the final notes drop. “Whispers Through the Aether” trudges and stomps, the harsh growls poke bloody holes, and the guitars catch fire. From there, the pace accelerates, with the growls doing cosmetic damage, and the band hitting a sci-fi-styled assault that keeps your head spinning and you gasping for air amid alien tentacles. The track ends in a final pit of metallic destruction. “The Magic of Severed Limbs” has a punishing, savage start, as the band aims to maim life and limb, and the growls threaten madness. Weird riffs swirl, while psychotic laughs barrel into the night, and then the guitars begin the tear at flesh again. The music bubbles, howls and bizarre shouts trick your mind, and the song spirals into hell.

“Velvet Blue” is punchy right from the start, with guitars caught on tornadic speed, and the band unleashing their most violent outburst of the entire record. The track is trudging and again does battle amid the stars before the track comes to a fire-breathing finish. “Violence for the Hell of It” is one of the best song titles of the year, and it delivers on its promise by landing blows and loosening teeth. The vocals crush bones, yet the guitars give off infectious atmosphere before everything shifts. The growls are gritty, synth creates a poisonous cloud, and the final minutes feel like an intergalactic battle fought galaxies away. Closer “Scarlet Woman” is the longest track at 9:14, and it takes its time setting the scene and feel. The initial flow is calm, as guitars drip, and the call of, “I saw her standing there,” pays off a visit from an apparition. The leads float before breaking apart, with drums getting menacing and thunderous, and melodies intertwining and gasping. Smothering crunching and gang wails follow, as the music boils, the guitars combine into a singular force, and the track seems to bleed blues and purples into the very river depicted in the stunning album art.

Bands such as Ghastly are keeping death metal exciting and pumping with interesting new colors of blood, and “Death Velour” is a strange, blistering trip into deep space. They’re heavy enough to satisfy those who require brutality, but they’re manic enough to draw those who want something challenging in their music to keep them invested. Ghastly do good by their country’s long tradition of death greatness as well as the overall sound they’re helping to grow into something weirder.

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