Ghost Bath’s ‘Moonlover’ makes bleakness uplifting and beautiful

ghost bath moonlover
Cover for ‘Moonlover’ (Northern Silence Productions)

Since Ghost Bath’s first album, Funeral, bloggers have been raving about how China has produced such an amazing band. But things are not quite as they seem. Ghost Bath are actually not a Chinese band but rather the work mainly of one Dennis Mikula of Minot, North Dakota.

There’s certainly been a lot of publicity-generating fuss over the origins of Ghost Bath. But who cares? What we’re really here for is the music.

Moonlover is the band’s second album, and if you haven’t come across the subgenre of “depressive black metal” before, then you might just be in for a surprise, because when they are at their best, Ghost Bath’s music positively soars… After a short teaser of an intro, the first full track, “Golden Number”, is a beautiful piece of music, moving from tearing chords, blazing blast beats and anguished vocals, through moments of quiet melodic bliss, and finishing with a piano outro that would leave you perfectly satisfied if it closed the album. It’s an amazing song, crafted to hit the listener with the very best the band has to offer.

Ghost Bath leaps out of the speakers like the bastard love child of Wolves in the Throne Room and Alcest. While they lack some of the hypnotic magic of the former and the true gentle wonder of the latter, they nevertheless employ a haunting interplay between the lightest and darkest sides of modern metal. Third track “Happyhouse” is about as cheerful as early Sisters of Mercy and carries some seriously dissonant melodies that weave around Mikula’s shredded voice like vines strangling a deserted mental hospital.

Ghost Bath’s “Nameless,” aka Dennis Mikula (image: courtesy of Ghost Bath / Northern Silence Productions)

An excursion into solely clean guitars in “Beneath the Shade Tree” didn’t work as well for me due to some fluffed picking that rudely dumped me out of their enchantment. Thankfully, the “The Silver Flower Pt. 1” starts a sparkling build up to one of the best riffs I’ve heard in a long, long time at the start of the following track, “The Silver Flower Pt. 2”. It goes as soon as it arrives, leaving me desperate for more, but the rest of the song and album closer “Death and the Maiden” delight by putting us right back in “Golden Number” territory with properly tortured vocals and ear-worm melodies.

At their best, when they deliver what I think of as “slow songs played very fast”, Ghost Bath are a band that could have massive cross-over appeal, skipping merrily between the bleakest black metal and the jangliest of goth-rock. There are some extraordinarily contradictory songwriting skills on display here; if Satan hired Ghost Bath to provide music to accompany the apocalypse they’d piss him off mightily by making the end of the world sound happy and uplifting. And that’s the niche that they will have in my album collection – music for those days when I want to be both angry and happy at the same time.

Chinese or North Dakotan? It doesn’t matter one bit. Pay no attention to who they are or where they come from. Just enjoy what they do.

About Sapient

Sapient is a multi-instrumentalist and sole member of the blackened death metal band Abomnium. He lives in a tall, thin house in Amsterdam, and his latest album 'A Hollow Path' is out on UKEM Records.

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