Ghost Brigade - _Until Fear No Longer Defines Us_
(Season of Mist, 2011)
by: Dan Lake (7.5 out of 10)
Ghost Brigade are only on album number three and already they're lamenting the loss of youth and its dreams on _Until Fear No Longer Defines Us_. Sure, melancholia was a foregone conclusion for a band that has spent the past five years welding über-sad melodies to revitalized Isis riffs, but one expects more abstracted sorrows caused by the general decay of society. These Finns seem to be exorcising a more specific personal grief. Exhibit A: acoustic opener "In the Woods", refusing to be relegated to mere intro status, directly addresses a despair too familiar to be theoretical. Much chuggy bluster ensues afterwards, but the band never loses sight of the gloomy disappointment laid out in the album's first four minutes.

The single "Clawmaster" rages forth like _Highway_-era Cult of Luna crashing a _Damnation_ release party before stretching out into despondent vocal lines and galloping guitar choruses. Frowny-faced grave stompers might equate melody in extreme music with bringing a pillow to a gun fight, but Ghost Brigade know how to balance sludgy punishment and singable catchiness without ever forcing it. Manne Ikonen's wields his two vocal personalities -- alternately tear-streaked velvet and Scottkellian roar -- with equal confidence. Sometimes clumsy lyric choices ("I hate your face" will scandalize third graders everywhere... maybe) can be forgiven as he rants at self-oppression, questions life's purpose, and decries religious bullshittery.

Musically, _Fear_ is somewhat less hooky and memorable than its predecessor, _Isolation Songs_, though "Divine Act of Lunacy" kept me "marching through fire" for an entire afternoon, repeatedly reminding myself that "fear is forbidden!" Excepting the occasional sonic accents a la concept rockers dredg, _Fear_ progresses through its songs reliably, eschewing left turns and unnecessary ornamentation in favor of thematic focus and consistent atmosphere. Some bands cast about for years to locate their sound; on _Fear_, Ghost Brigade simply follow the logic of soul-fired aggression laid out on earlier efforts. The mixture remains effective, though its appeal is largely exhausted by the close of "Soulcarvers" wintry plod. What's next for Ghost Brigade rests wholly on the band's (and the fans') ability to either further plumb the style or to progress.


(article published 1/11/2011)

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