Ecstasy. Joy. Paradise. Cosmos. “A surrealistic journey through the heavens drenched in sorrow.” That’s how American blackgaze band Ghost Bath describes Starmourner, a direct sequel to a trilogy which started with their 2015 release Moonlover, a forty-two minute exploration on humanity’s melancholy and depression; it managed to be one of my favorite releases of that year due to the beauty encased within its dark sound. Two years later and signed to Nuclear Blast, one of metal’s biggest labels, Ghost Bath returns with the aforementioned Starmourner, their longest and most ambitious album to date, changing their topics to deliver joy, cosmos, and paradise while retaining the sorrow behind its sound and Nameless’ dramatic vocal delivery.
You drift into a deep slumber;
Thus begins the first of infinite dreams.
The opener sets the mood for journey to come, with a beautiful piano peace culminating into Nameless’ gasps and screams. This gives way to “Seraphic” the first heavy song of the album, and a clear message of the band’s interpretation of Starmourner‘s topics. Even if you can hear and feel the sorrow behind its sound, the riffs and guitars that accompany this track are joyful, filling you with ecstasy.
This exploration follows with “Ambrosial” and “Ethereal” which are perfectly described with the passage found on the former track:
“They cry out and sing in unison with the stars
-though their mouths do not move-
they only gape open to release sound”.
Yet this journey has its dark part, as the ending of the latter explains:
“Depression enters the room;
It wanders forward and sits across the table from you,
leaving no other choice but to finally give in.”
“Welcome back, my old friend,” you say in defeat, “Welcome back.”
The next track, “Celestial” starts out with a different and aggressive tone. The explosion of colours found on past tracks is nowhere to be found, it feels like a shadow is taking over with each passing second; and by the end of the song, it all comes down in an out-of-tune, slow, and dark outro.
“Why must I suffer so?
What reason do I lack the gift which all else possess?
Must I live stuck in this state of nothingness that I have now lived in for so long?”
The next two tracks might be my favorites, due to their simplicity and message; “Angelic” starts off with clean guitars to evolve into a post-rock crescendo, this one containing the next words:
“Another day, another lie;
Another way, too late to try;
It makes no difference, live or die;
Another day, another lie”
For me, it sounds like a cry out for help, to keep soaring on this journey through the cosmos until its destination without falling to the void. That sorrowful, yet optimistic, cry comes out in the form of “Luminescence”, which puts the album back onto its sound. This time, it’s with a more aggressive ecstasy, extending through the rest of the album until it ends with another beautiful piano track, in the form of “Ode”. Each one contains its passages regarding Jewish angelology and hierarchy. The last track, for example, ends with this parable:
“The sensation of excruciating pain arises within your body and you see the dance of a thousand flames before you faint from the agony.
You hear a voice in the distance:
I form the light, and create darkness:
I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things.”
With this journey over, we’re left with our journey’s fate. Have we reached paradise and redemption after all our suffering and pain? That’s up to you.
Ghost Bath has achieved something magical with Starmourner. This is not “Moonlover 2.0”, and I’m glad that it isn’t. Nameless’ vocal delivery doesn’t contain a single word to be interpreted. Yet, it’s the emotion behind its sound that makes it unique, while the rest of the band attacks with full aggression and beauty to deliver this message of joy and sorrow. It will be hard to top off this one, but I’m looking forward to the end of this trilogy. Well done!
A press copy of the album was used for this review.
Band: Ghost Bath
Release date: 2017/04/21
Label: Nuclear Blast
1. Astral – 3:21
2. Seraphic – 5:51
3. Ambrosial – 8:30
4. Ethereal – 6:54
5. Celestial – 8:15
6. Angelic – 5:24
7. Luminescence – 6:08
8. Thrones – 6:21
9. Elysian – 5:22
10. Cherubim – 4:27
11. Principalities – 6:15
12. Ode – 4:29
Total running time: 71:20
Filetype listened to: CD/MP3
Bitrate: CD/320 kbit/s CBR
Sampling frequency: CD/44,100 Hz, 2 channels