PICK OF THE WEEK: Ghastly travel further into death metal oddity with weird ‘Mercurial Passages’

Photo by S. Kujansuu

Death metal is such a strange beast and concept that it’s weird that the music doesn’t sound more bizarre than it does. At least to us who already are indoctrinated in the style and listen to it constantly. Play it for a normal person, and it probably sounds buckwild as shit. Yet the amount of experimentation and risk taking isn’t quite as common as someone like me would like. I’ll take that over brutal any day.

Finnish death maulers Ghastly never have had an issue defying convention, as their style certainly has the sub-genre’s base, but it branches out in unexpected directions from there. Their third album “Mercurial Passages” is finally in our grasp, and as usual, it’s pretty goddamn weird, but it’s also punishing as hell just where it needs to be. The trio of Gassy Sam (vocals), Johnny Urnripper (vocals), and Ian J. D’Waters (multi-instrumentalist) forges into the macabre and the weirdly spooky, spreading their mangling charisma and razor-sharp creations over seven tracks and 40 minutes. Good thing is, though, the band doesn’t go too far into the bizarre; so a non-adventurous listener still could get taken for a ride from the heaviness and work their way into the mind-numbing drama.

“Ouroborus” fades into the scene as the music drips, and then the growls go after your throat. There remain clean elements even as things get heavy and mind taxing, letting your mind swim in psychosis as heavy growls strike again, and everything bleeds to the end. “Out of the Psychic Blue” has the drums lighting up and daring riffs crumbling forward as the growls go to work at your slowly congealing gashes. The leads squeal as the pace trudges, ripping open any chance of calm with a violent assault, raw howls, and the drums going to work, leaving everything in front of it in the dust. “Sea of Light” emerges with cold riffs and tangling playing that causes you to question your sanity. The track then crumbles into hell with the vocals taunting you, the leads snaking, and a hypnotic fury rising like a stormfront, keeping its grip on your throat before the track rumbles to a finish.

“Perdition” blows through walls as your brain is put to the test, and then the drums allow reckless boulders to race down the hill toward you. Fierce vocals sharpen their teeth as everything is engulfed in madness, the growls chew at your veins, and song burns to a crisp. “Parasites” tears open and attacks your central nervous system before the growls go to work on your flesh. Hazy hell begins to unfurl, melting your through processes, and then the soloing goes off the edge. The music explores space, the growls make your spine crumble, and the track ends in heavy echo. “Dawnless Dreams” is the longest track at 8:34, and it starts with a heavy dose of atmosphere before the vocals get to work upending you, and the guitar work opens you up. The drums engulf you and shake the entire earth while the guitar work reaches for new creative heights, and a gust of keys turn things oddly hypnotic. Psychedelics and space unite, the menacing pace meanders purposely, and the track ends up in a starry grave. “Mirror Horizon” ends the album, a 7:25-long piece that starts landing blows right away, with the growls smashing and the guitar work turning up the temperature. The place smashes and smothers, making it hard to surface for a breath, and then the growls go back to work again, seeking your bruises. The playing remains ugly, melodies encircle, and you’re left on the ground watching the sky spin and the contents of your stomach threatening to surface.

Ghastly’s strange, out-of-body style of death metal continues to weigh on your mental well being on “Mercurial Passages,” another heavy dose of total disorientation. At times, their music can be peculiar and might not be everyone’s thing, but for those who align with them, this is another exciting journey with so many bizarre turns, it’s hard to keep from getting perilously dizzy. Ghastly remain one of the more daring, anxiety inducing bands in all of death metal, and this latest serving isn’t going to do much to ease your aching guts.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ghastlydeathmetal

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/ghastly

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

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