6th May 2016 – Ritual Productions
01. Collusion With Traitors
04. Despert Thrang
05. Something Of Her Old Fire
With a stack of releases behind them, Londoners Ghold have a strong reputation for top-shelf bizarre sludge, and frequently play amongst some of the UK’s finest, including an appearance at last year’s Temples festival. Rubbing shoulders with the great and good is a cause for celebration, but with all that experience behind them, the challenge to consolidate their off-the-wall ideas for their new release is a big one.
Enter PYR, where the influence of the Melvins looms large; the Washingtonians’ heavy imprint on Ghold is palpable, with the influence often worn on their sleeve, most notably through the everything-all-at-once drum philosophy. This is Melvins re-imagined through modern sludge: still idiosyncratic, still crushing, but a little longer-winded, reminiscent of some of the more out-there stuff on Stoner Witch or more recent, lugubrious releases such as Bell Witch‘s Four Phantoms.
Importantly though, Ghold’s identity isn’t compromised, which is essential to their appeal. Easy as it is to trace their lineage, Ghold manage the holy grail of engaging with influence without losing their vision of percussive, super-low end noise-sludge. PYR is sonically rich, and the culmination of ideas feels organic – if sometimes unrefined.
They certainly aren’t a song-y band – though they’ve flirted with shorter songs such as “Elvira” from previous release Galactic Hiss - and so some of the ideas feel a little cluttered and bizarre, such as the sudden percussion break on opener “Collusion with Traitors“, again showing a direct Dale Crover influence. This is followed by the frantic “Blud“. On early listens the themes between songs are difficult to trace, with only the overflowing of ideas and tangential percussive outbursts to hold it together, however though the album threatens to be swamped in ideas, there are some moments where it takes a moment to find its own balance.
After the halfway point, PYR opens up and we see the idiosyncrasies start to shine through. The change of pace comes with the expansive “Despert Thrang“; here they lay off a little and a droney soundscape is introduced; this fits the feel of the album but is a sudden tonal shift and introduces a less frenzied second half. This transitions into some plain song-style chanting before getting back to their sludge assault. By this point the album has bombarded the listener with a vast multitude of sonic experiments and musical showerthoughts, and despite being a full-length there are no moments where the record feels anything short of completely overwhelming.
This sense of limitless ideas is one of the record’s great strengths. Having dropped some shorter releases with more focused tracks, Ghold have gone all-out here, representing their most varied release to date. Even more impressive is the instrumentation – aside from some flourished on “Despert Thrang” – all appear to be just bass, guitar and drums; by limiting their approach they allow the individual instruments more of a presence. It’s particularly refreshing to see a band engage with their percussive elements as a main creative point. Importantly, PYR is an exhibition of furious musicianship and testament to the philosophy that you don’t have to compromise on manic energy to produce a coherent album.
UK doom/sludge is in fantastic health, and it’s important we nurture it so we get more outstanding releases such as these. In a healthy context, Ghold will always be mavericks and manage to display obvious influences of some of the most out-there bands on earth without coming across as derivative. This is Ghold’s best-realised work to date; more challenging than some of the more together material they’ve released previously but overflowing with clashing ideas, bizarre themes and exotic sounds. In a world of riches, Ghold are especially precious treasures.