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Solo member of Galaktik Cancer Squad, Argwohn, has been releasing his dark arias since 2009; having been involved in numerous projects and a couple of solo endeavors such as the current band that stands at the chopping block today. His previous three full-length albums through Galaktik Cancer Squad have had digital only releases, up until the time that they were scooped up by Hypnotic Dirge Records and given a re-release; this makes his latest adventure, Ghost Light, both his fourth album and the first album to be given an immediate physical release. What devious dirges lay within the encoding on this CD, and is it worth it for you to check it out?
Ghost Light is a fairly lengthy album that comes in at just over fifty minutes in length, and what causes the content to feel longer are the durations of each track. The shortest song, oddly enough the title track, comes in at just under seven minutes in length while the longest is "Hypnose" at fifteen minutes. As well, the latter mentioned track is also is entirely instrumental and surprisingly the absolute highlight of the material. If the endurance of the audience allows, they will find themselves swept away in the haunting depth that this album has to offer; however, despite the indulgence of constant change that this album takes on, those that lack patience may find themselves drifting away from the content come the third or fourth track.
The guitars are the true highlight of the content, there is both rhythm and lead presented here and both do an outstanding job of carrying the material through consistent tempo and symphony changes. The lead guitar spoils the listener with picking sections, awe-inspiring bridges and outlandish solos, as well as mandatory tremolo sections that are well placed and sparse. The tone and distortion typically stays at a stagnant higher elevation over the rhythm guitar, which keeps it characterized from the grittier rhythm timbre. These differences are brought to climax in the formidable second track, "When the Void Whispers My Name", which is also the only song to feature English lyrics (the rest are in German). Understandably, the rhythm guitar devotes the large majority of it's time to palm muted and open power chord riffs that give the album its weight since there is a lack of audible bass among the chaos endowed compositions. To furthermore add to the constantly evolving guitars, there are also acoustics every now and then which assist the slow tempo segments in atmosphere creation; most notably within "In lichterlosen Weiten", "Ghost Light" and "When the Void Whispers My Name".
From the beginning the drums sound as if they could be comprised of a drum machine due to the cold and calculated feel they convey during "Ethanol Nebula". Many of the blast beats and double bass kicks sound triggered and robotic, less fluid in movement than what would be given off with a human touch. While this isn't a necessary downside to Ghost Light, the deprivation of creative beats and patterns holds the material back at times. There are some great marching rolls in "In lichterlosen Weiten" and some captivating rhythms here and there that are defined by toms and snares, still a large portion of the drum compositions are comprised of typical black metal blast beats that tend to fill elongated voids; essentially providing a background canvas for the guitars to play on top of.
There are subtle pianos heard inside of various tracks that adds to the overall icy atmosphere that the album gives off. This element is endearing and it would be something to possibly incorporate more in future releases. The vocals are overlaid in sections as Argwohn switches up his styles between shrill highs and growling lows, such as in "Ghost Light" and "When the Void Whispers My Name". Both styles are strong and come easily to the vocalist, the overlays add a welcomed depth to well placed areas of certain tracks and never sound forced or overdone. Typically he will sing in one style or the other, and can skillfully change on a whim if he so desires.
Ghost Light assuredly has it's fair share of issues, but these concerns are few and far between. Argwohn has delivered a powerful album that takes the listener on a majestic journey through time and space, to the outer regions of imagination. Aside from the somewhat redundant and harsh, mechanized drumming, the album stands firm and delivers it's message with an impacting force. It's definitely worth a listen for fans of progressive and black metal genres, although if you're not planning on sticking out the whole trip recommended tracks are definitely "Hypnose", "Ghost Light" and "When the Void Whispers My Name".
Physical Copy Provided by: Hypnotic Dirge Records
- Villi Thorne
Contrary to what I wrote in my Obsidian Tongue review regarding one-man black metal bands and how they generally don't work, Galaktik Cancer Squad from Hamburg, Germany is the solo effort of one, Argwohn, whom formed the band back in '11 and honestly makes it work. As it often goes for solo projects he's been rather prolific, releasing three full-lengths, as well a few splits and an EP. He's even had time to mastermind another solo endeavor called Morphinist and been a part of the bands Metakognition, Grauzeit and Garlben. However, what matters here is Galaktik Cancer Squad and Argwohn's fourth full-length, 'Ghost Light,' which is also his first album released by a label, namely; Hypnotic Dirge Records.
Being my first experience with the band I can tell you this is rare occasion where a solo musician is really coming up with something special and effective too. GCS plays a sort of post/progressive black metal with towering majestic melodic characteristics and melancholy sensibilities that hit where it counts for an atmospheric and enjoyable journey. Its not anything new, but its really, really good.
'Ethanol Nebula' opens the record and its one the speedier songs on the record with plenty of blasting and more dissonant typical black metal parts, but the melodic aspects sneak through and set the mood for the rest of the album quite stunningly. 'When the Void Whispers My Name' is by far my favorite of the album, kicking off with a softer post rock-ish vibe, it gradually builds in momentum before kicking into high gear with underlining melodies of melancholy and pure epicness soon enough, and with a brilliant lead riff and calmer part at the end it makes for quite a song. 'In lichterlosen Weiten' is one of the albums longest at over twelve minutes and similar to the previous songs it has both its brutal parts and post-ish and progressive aspects, the middle of the song in particular is just beautifully despondent, which reaches a breathtaking climax around the eight minute mark with synth and piano work, before diving back into speedier territories.
The title track is not without its melodic side, but generally goes for a more straight forward approach until the ending when things calm down, while the final song, 'Hypnose' encompasses' everything already previously heard on the album, but takes it to the fifteen minute mark, although its entirely instrumental, but from what I've read previous records from the band were instrumental, so this isn't really out of place for the band.
Song by song commentary aside, it should be pointed out that the musicianship on display here is quite good and the song writing is surely way above average for the usual solo black metal projects. Also the fact that its properly recorded adds a great deal of strength to the overall experience.
As a whole, 'Ghost Light' is strong album, especially the first three songs, which just plain rule. I think the last two songs lose a bit of steam, but its still got enough to make for an all around enjoyable listen. Argwohn is surely up to something special on here and I can easily say if you dig any sort of post-ish & progressive-ish black metal you'll want to look into this guys work.
Originally wrote for, Lunar Hypnosis: http://lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com